Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Six-year-old Priscilla, bless her heart, has an unusually difficult time recalling the proper name of just about anything. I mean, it’s always close, so close, but just off enough to make you nearly spit your coffee out when you hear the alternative version she’s been mulling around in her brain for a while finally being unleashed over breakfast.
“Mom,” she has asked for example, “can we borrow that Disney movie again from the library?”
“Which one, honey?”
“You know, with the guy that’s all bent over…oh, wait… I remember! The Hunchback of Never Done. Can we get it?”
Then there’s “cretzels”, her favorite salty snack, “with” in lieu of “if” (as in “With you give me a bite of yours, I’ll give you some of mine”) and her own unique take on a certain obnoxious underwater sponge creature, “Scrunch Bob Short Pants”. So three months ago when she approached me about participating in the “Flocks of Love” program, I just briefly imagined needy barnyard animals before figuring out that what she meant to say was “Locks of Love” and oh no, that involved the cutting of her silky, shiny, youthfully perfect hair. I hadn’t realized that she overheard our neighbor, who had recently shorn her own flowing locks for charity, describing to me the process. Apparently, if you have at least nine or so inches to offer, this organization will turn donated hair into wigs for cancer patients. Now what kind of a mom would say no to that?! Not me, certainly, it was much easier to just change the subject and hope she’d forget about it.
Then last weekend, I was summoned upstairs by my husband, Troy, who was speed bathing our kids before tucking them into bed. “Molly!” he yelled, “Could you help me with this?” Mary had fallen and bumped her nose, the boys were getting rowdy and Priscilla was still soaking in the bathtub waiting for someone, now me I guess, to wash her. I drizzled on the normal amount of shampoo but it seemed to disappear into what I quickly discovered was a matted mess, the likes of which I had never before encountered. “What in the world?!” I marveled, while trying to scrub and disentangle what felt like one humongous dreadlock. Hidden inside that monstrosity, I found lollipop bits, lint balls, and a band-aid. It took me a full forty minutes to work my way through it and between Priscilla’s sobs we revisited the "Locks of Love" suggestion both coming to the same conclusion that maybe it was a great idea after all.
The night before her scheduled salon appointment, I only got a little teary. You see it’s a novelty to have a daughter whose hair is nothing like mine. While I was a bright shining star in 1987, when bigger was better and Aqua Net induced volume was fashionable, the following decades proved to be a humbling challenge what with “tame and controlled” back in style. Priscilla got the ideal mix of my wild mane and Troy’s fine, stick-straightness. When she wanted to look like Rapunzel, I stashed away the scissors watching with fascination her hair grow downward instead of up and out and everywhere. I became quite attached to the brushing and braiding and ribbons, but it was time now to move on and allow her to grow up a little. It was time to exchange the sentimentalism for practicality; letting go would bring freedom to both of us.
Being as overly reflective as I am, this fairly momentous event triggered a gloves off type scrutiny of some other personal attachments which may in fact be more of a hindrance than a boon to my quality of life. I am referring to those guilty pleasure behaviors that over time become deeply rooted, impossible to yank free from the fertile core of my being without the proper tools and some good old-fashioned elbow grease. These include but are not limited to: grudges, envy, Internet surfing, self-pity, curiosity, and anxiousness. These detract from, not encourage, my ability to act intentionally throughout the day, wringing out of it every sacred opportunity that I can to grow in faith. Yes, I could use a decent trim; dead ends are pretty tacky, quite unbecoming for a gal so adorned with Grace. Then the upkeep, oh my goodness, what a colossal waste of my energy like trying to climb mountains while dragging a boulder. “Well, of course you have to pray,” says my priest in confession, and there it is: the most straight forward, most obvious, most challenging of solutions.
There were no tears this morning, no foul moods due to stubborn snarls, otherwise known in Priscilla’s language as “hair nits”. We both found within ourselves the courage to simplify and are now reaping the rewards of that decision. We had a few extra minutes thanks to the removal of those excess inches to stand in front of our icons before school started and offer up a hymn of praise to Christ. “O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things,” my children and I sang in unison, their tender voices filling me with determination to release what doesn’t edify, what doesn’t matter, to exchange the superfluous for the “one thing needful”. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things, says St. Paul in Philippians 4:8.
Do I want to thrive, really, or am I far too contented with mere survival? Snip, snip, snip what I choose to cut will make obvious the answer to that question. Old habits die hard, get your game face on, every moment carries with it new temptations. But the experience of a load being ever more lightened by each obedient submission of your time, your thoughts, your resources reassures one this is right, this is hopeful, this is good, life has meaning, I’m not lost; there is joy in shedding burdens and sprinting Home.
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