A couple of months ago, famed fashion designer Norma Kamali joined Hoda and Jenna. She’s 75, has found love and has written a book about what she’s learned about aging, health and power called “I Am Invincible.”
I want to be invincible so I listened, hungry to absorb as much as I could from her advice. I’ve still got about 20 years before I hit 75, but I want to know every secret out there. She is stunning to look at and unabashedly articulate. But the thing that stopped me mid-sip of my steaming latte was when Ms. Kamali mentioned that at 50 she cleaned house. Literally. She cleaned house. She got rid of everything she had because she said all that stuff, all of her decor and her collections over the years, blocked her creativity.
It got me thinking about my stuff and then it got me thinking about big black contractor sized trash bags. I found myself lying awake at night fantasizing about what to fill them with, promising myself to carefully dispose and donate whatever I don’t use, whatever got in the way of my creativity. I started in the basement where I store my opposite season clothes. A friend once mentioned she’d take whatever I wasn’t wearing. I swung open the doors to the closet and just started folding and bagging until I had piles of black plastic at my feet. My heart was full and my closet was empty! That must be what my new goddess Norma was talking about. Then off to the bathroom. Did I really need 24 bottles of nail polish? No, no one does unless you’re a manicurist. Ding, ding, ding, is all I heard when the bottles hit my tin wastepaper basket. A rush of adrenaline flowed through me. Now where?! I know, my office.
The problem with the office is it’s home to just about everything. Work stuff, finance stuff, gifts I buy a year in advance, wrapping paper, books, computers, pictures in picture frames, pictures not in picture frames, old albums, you name it! And to make matters worse, my office also doubles as a dressing room so there are handbags and tote bags everywhere. My wedding gown is on a mannequin because why pay for storage. And then there are keepsakes and photographs of my baby boy.
My baby boy is 15 now. I choke as I write that number because it’s so hard for me to believe. I am quite certain the planet starts to spin faster once there’s a child in your life. I swear my teenager was an infant only three years ago.
But my storage tub proves differently. I keep it tucked under a settee and it holds everything from my son’s first day of school photos to a stack of Playbills to drawings and report cards. I inhaled deeply and dove in. It didn’t take long before the tears started streaming down my face.
There it was right in front of me. A little boy I once knew but was never going to see again. No one prepares you for that. No one tells you what to expect while raising. All we’re told is what to expect when we’re expecting.
That little toddler who couldn’t wait for me to pick him up from pre-school with arms wide open wasn’t coming back. The second grader who repeatedly asked me questions and whose every other word was “mom” is gone.
I looked at photos of a pint sized peanut walking off to his first day of nursery school with a backpack twice his size. I read about a boy who lived for Spiderman and Santa. I read essays about how he thought his mom was “budiful” and how Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday because he got to stick his arm in the turkey. He wrote that he would be a famous football player one day and what his life would be like. He wrote about the tooth fairy leaving him “real gold”coins under his pillow and how “bord” he was on the bus ride into the city to see the Radio City Christmas show, but the candy made it better. He wrote how much he loves that every Christmas Eve Santa comes and gives him one present before he goes to bed and that even his elf gives him a present.
He wrote me love notes then, on Mother’s Day and on Valentine’s Day. He brought home his hand outlined with mine outlined next to it and lots of little hearts.
I looked at photos of his gorgeous curly golden brown locks that he despises now. I looked at the wide eyed smile and his bright blue eyes and read the teacher’s remarks about his happy go lucky attitude and the ease in which he makes friends.
When I was a little girl, my mother would sing me an old Bing Crosby lullaby called "Hush-A-Bye." The lyrics were “sleep in my arms while you still can, childhood is but a dream” but my mother would sing “childhood is but a day.” I never understood what that meant when I was 5, but today I’m fully aware and it stings.
As I sat there in a puddle of tears, hardly being able to see what was in my son’s bin after just a few minutes (which was probably a good thing), I wondered, if I’m this emotional now, what will happen to me when he goes off to college? I wondered why I’m saving all of these heartwarming yet heartbreaking drawings and cards he made me over the “little” years if the beautiful memories of yesteryear only brings me to my knees. Their original intent was to make me smile and feel proud of my little da Vinci’s work. I stacked up what I could see and closed the box and grabbed some tissues — like an entire box — and wiped my eyes.
It was 12:30 a.m. and I knew if I got in bed, I’d probably lie awake reliving the last 15 years and not getting a wink of sleep. So I went down to the kitchen made some tea and headed to the TV room where my curly haired 5’9” baby boy was watching "Saturday Night Live." I grabbed a blanket and plopped down beside him just happy to be near him. And as I sipped my tea, he extended his hand and grabbed mine and kissed it. And together we watched "SNL" and laughed. And I realized I may have lost a little boy, but I’ve gained a warm and loving young man and there are so many new memories to look forward to making.