Sunday, October 21, 2012

Turning the Page

There's an enormous dry erase board that my husband framed up and hung in the little "mud room" entrance to our kitchen and since our family mostly enters our home this way via a garden door--rather than the more formal front entrance--the board has stood as a constant reminder of what needs doing around here.

In the beginning it was divided into five sections with each person in our house writing his or her name at the top in dry erase marker. This left five vertical columns for each person's daily stuff. Occasionally the boys would leave funny or cryptic messages for one another with the most constant data being grocery lists with scribbled in requests for ice cream, reminders for dry cleaning or to fix something broken in the house. Eventually, memos for tux rentals and graduation invitations fought for space with college application deadlines and dorm move-in dates, summer work interviews and appeals for a new pair of running shoes. There were times when the board was exploding with muti-colored announcements all crammed in a happy chaotic jumble.

The old board is looking a little barer these days. It's no secret that I dislike change if it's not something I wanted in the first place. However, I will go on record as saying that I hung on to some very old memos --perhaps longer than was necessary. As each boy left in more permanent ways the need for them to use this as a tap on the shoulder decreased imperceptibly.... almost as if word by word.

And then this week? Something changed  and I found myself standing in front of the middle son's written reminder to file his college graduation plan.   He's done that and the ceremony is in December. There was the oldest son's memo for rental agreement on his house, which happened months ago, as well as a sketch of a wooden construct to be used at a summer camp where he is the climbing instructor. Done. Finally, there was my hugely scrawled admonition to the youngest son to PACK for college as well as the distinctively pink signature of his girlfriend that had been there since the previous winter.

By not erasing those last two bits of information I realized I was trying to keep certain things alive that were no longer relevant to us or to our sons--and in that same way--avoid the inevitably gaping space that would result. But in fact the youngest had already left --successfully packed-- almost two months before, plus he and the girlfriend were no longer together. In the time that had elapsed those written words had been drained of their meaning and now were nothing more than symbols of fear that the space they had previously filled might never be replaced by anything else. 

Sometimes it takes naming a fear to make you see how stupid it really is. This was the case on Thursday afternoon. After considering one last time the commands, suggestions and reminders from the last six months I picked up a dry erase marker.  Impulsively, I turned it over to its felt eraser end and slowly scrubbed away at all of the messages that no longer applied. And... the world did not end.  Even though the board is still pretty empty. It is said that nature abhors a vacuum. If that's true then I can't wait to see what she does with this message board...and the life we live as reflected on its surface.


  1. This is really beautiful...bittersweet and hopeful.

  2. The aphorism "to everything there is a season" has never seemed more apt.

  3. Awwww...this reminds me of how I kept a broken phone just because my 2 year old son (at the time) had left a voice message on it. It's got to be hard to erase the traces of the past like that.


Be nice. It's not as hard as it sounds.