There was quite a bit of business on my agenda this morning, including multiple calls to doctors and the insurance company about a problem with one of my husband’s prescriptions. Consequently, I spent almost two hours with a phone stuck to my ear, trying to keep Baby Guy entertained while Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man entertained themselves around the house. While I checked on them periodically, I had to take a lot of notes, which precluded me from doing my usual circulation through the rooms where they play. Since there was nothing unusual about the noise level, and no one was wailing about any canine acts of pilferage, I didn’t think there was any reason for special concern today. The stomach bug that leveled the girls yesterday seemed to have passed, and I heard the distinct sounds of little voices saying “please.” All was well with the world.
As I was finishing my last conversation with the doctor’s office, Bugaboo ambled into the kitchen, cheerfully announcing, “I have a bucket full of beautiful, shiny black ribbon!” That was a stumper because, since I have wrapping supplies of almost every description cluttering the family room, black ribbon was not, to my knowledge, among them. I turned to see what on earth she might have found that would resemble ribbon, and caught my breath in a deathgrip.
There, in her bucket, was what she did not know was the entirety of the magnetic tape from an audiocassette.
My Pop-Pop was a devout lover of music, especially the big band sounds and the crooners. He never really got into CDs, but thought that cassette tapes were a marvel of modern technology. He would canvass the flea markets of Dundalk and Sparrows Point, looking for old vinyl recordings of good music, then take them home and record them onto cassettes. I don’t know of too many people who knew him who don’t own at least one mixtape he made especially for them. I have dozens. I also have almost his entire personal collection of tapes, and I treasure every single one of them. His way of saying “I love you” was to share his music. As it happens, not long ago, I had been listening to a tape he made of Frank Sinatra songs on his old stereo down in the family room, at the end of a particularly exhausting day.
I released the breath I’d been holding and asked Bugaboo if her pretty ribbon had come out of a box, and she told me it had, in fact, come from a little grey one down in the family room. Fighting tears, I asked her to show me where she’d left the box, and she led me down the stairs.
By then, I knew what I would find, and I was glad her back was to me as we descended, so she couldn’t see my thoughts racing across my face (I’m a lousy poker player, by the way). How could she? Didn’t she know it was Pop-Pop’s? Why would she break something I treasured? I’m so angry. How would she feel if I broke something of hers? I don’t have him anymore, all I have left is the music and some trinkets.
Then, like a thunderclap, it hit me. The tape is a thing. Pop-Pop is dead. Yelling at Bugaboo won’t bring him back. I loved Pop-Pop, and I love Bugaboo, and I have an opportunity to teach her something important RIGHT NOW.
Instead of giving vent to what had been anger, I let her see and hear my sadness at losing this tangible reminder of someone I loved fiercely, someone who remains one of my heroes. It wasn’t a lengthy oration, but she hung her head. I told her I still love her and went back upstairs.
It was about half an hour later when she came upstairs, hurled herself at me, and whispered, “I’m sorry.” I told her I had already forgiven her, and that we are supposed to love people and use things. Sometimes things get broken, but that doesn’t change our love for people, or our need to forgive those who ask forgiveness. Then I snuggled her close and kissed her hair, and asked her how it made her feel when Mr. Man or Beanie broke something she really liked. She responded, in a sad little voice, that it made her really mad.
I kissed her again and told her I completely understood, but that it would make her feel a whole lot better if she forgave them. It did wonders for me.
Later that afternoon, we came across this coloring page in her lessons for today. Bugaboo made the connection to the incident with the cassette tape, and we talked about why it’s important not to take things that don’t belong to us, and to take care of things that belong to other people.
Things just aren’t that important, relatively speaking. Don’t get me wrong — I have no intention of ridding the house of forty years’ worth of treasured keepsakes. In the end, though, they’re just things, and none of them are worth teaching my children that when someone breaks your things, it’s okay to lash out in anger. Being a role model is tough sometimes.
Today’s prayer: Lord, You have blessed our family with material abundance; we do not want for food, clothing, entertainment, transportation, or ways to fellowship with others who have accepted Your loving friendship. Please keep me mindful that not a single one of those things is lovable in the way that Your blessings are lovable. Help me teach them that focusing on hoarding and protecting our possessions distances us from You. Thank You for the opportunity to catch myself today, and for reminding me that raging at a child over a broken trinket is not a loving act.