Friday, March 11, 2011


I am crazed. And not in a good way. Trying to juggle multiple work projects, keep H in one piece and now also sell our house after our first attempt last summer/early fall was a colossal fail. Since we bought at the height of a real estate market that has since collapsed, even in the tony suburb where our real estate agent pronounced poor behavior as "un-[name of my town]-like," as if we were the standard setters for all things of discriminating taste, we are trying to sell our house ourselves. Clearly this is not my first choice, but since we're already eating it on the price of our house, I refuse to dole out another $15k for the privilege of having someone schedule showing appointments for us.

Anyway, I went out shopping last night to pick up some things for a community service project sponsored by my town's parents group. They are putting together care packages for this amazing organization called Project Night Night. If you don't know this group, check them out. They came up with the brilliant idea of creating these Night Night Packages with a book, a blanket and a stuffed animal, for children that arrive at homeless shelters with no comfort objects to help them feel safe. I first read about them as pregnancy hormones surged through my veins, and need I even say that it brought tears to my eyes. So I was thrilled to learn my parents group was sponsoring the project and enthusiastically signed up to purchase several bags.

So I arrive at the checkout counter with a cart full of baby blankets and books, and an older, grandmotherly type is the checkout lady. I'm sort of relieved, because I'm about to be a little bit of a pain and I wouldn't want someone young and impatient having to deal with me. I'd told some friends in one of my play groups about the project, and they'd generously offered to contribute both items and money for the cause. Pay attention, because what follows is high finance. I had $50 in my wallet from friends for the bags and I wanted to make sure that money went right to the items. I wanted to pay for the rest with my store credit; I didn't want to end up paying for the whole thing with my credit and keeping the cash -- that just seemed weird.

So I handed the lady the cash first, and then wanted to pay for the balance with my credit. Easy enough, right? Except instead of then asking me for the balance, she started taking out money to give me change. I told her actually, I owe you, and then we both stopped and stared at each other. I began to doubt myself -- was I sure I owed her? -- because I was exhausted and could barely think myself. Remember my previous post about mom brain? Well, here is a case in point for you. It was like the blind leading the blind. She was really a sweet lady, but I'm afraid that one day they're going to count up the money in her register and find she's really off, and that will be the end of her retail career.

Anyway, while I was shopping, I really started thinking about these kids, the ones I was shopping for. I looked at blankets and pajamas that had those cutesy sayings that I personally loathe (Mom's Favorite All Star! Daddy's Little Slugger! Cutest Alarm Clock!) embroidered on them. I just thought, this kid might not have a mother. Might not ever know her. She might be a crack addict. Or she might be there, and loving, but plagued with serious problems that these lighthearted messages seemed almost to mock.

I looked at the books they had, particularly for the older kids, and wondered what content would be appropriate. Would it be a good idea, for example, to give a homeless child a book about some kid who has a really lovely home and parents who dote on him 24/7 and has some silly little problem at school? Would that serve as healthy escapism or bring into sharp relief that child's own, far more serious, problems in comparison?

I stood in the store staring at these things and became profoundly sad for these kids. The simple kindness of these bags, the small gesture that might bring some modicum of comfort to a child in distress, touched me but also broke my heart a little bit.

I mean, there but for the grace of God. What separates us from these families? Was it just a few bad financial decisions that spiraled out of control? Wrong place at the wrong time?

On these crazy days, when it's hard to see anything but what I need to accomplish next to finish a project, get us in a new house and keep H on developmental track, this was just a really helpful reminder to stop and look around. And really see.


Turia said...

Sounds like a fantastic project.

I, too, loathe the onesies with the cutesy statements. Especially 'Daddy's Little Princess'.

Good luck with managing the chaos. I hope the house sells quickly.

Roccie said...

You are one of a kind and I am very proud to know you.

What beautifully sensitive thoughts.

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