Thursday, October 8, 2015

Deep Roots and Empty Mailboxes

The little boy was prodded down the street by his father. When he reached my mother-in-law he wouldn't make eye contact.

"I'm sorry I took your package," he said, shuffling his feet.

My MIL, Marsha, had no idea what he was talking about and looked to the father for an explanation. Apparently the son was part of a club in the neighborhood. The club decided that for initiation each member had to steal something from someone's mailbox. This young boy had taken a package from Marsha, a package I mailed her more than eight months ago. Hidden in his closet, the package was discovered by his mother when she was cleaning out for the upcoming holidays.

The maybe-9-year-old little boy handed the package to Marsha and she opened it to find the triplets' senior portraits and a hat crocheted by me. She didn't know how to react.

I did. My righteously-indignant self reacted first: How dare he? I crocheted that hat as a gift and the triplets' senior pictures were a big deal after all. Big deal gifts that I had mailed to my mother-in-law more than eight months ago! (And anyone who knows me knows that just the fact that I MAILED something is a big deal -- getting things to the mailbox is not my strong suit.) Eight months. Oh, I could help the Mother clean out his closet -- I would clean out that closet.

My rule-abiding self reacted next: Does he know he broke the law? I mean seriously. The. Law.

But about the time I was ready to lock the poor child up, my broken self reacted. Oh, this poor child, this poor little boy willing to do whatever it takes to fit in, to find a group to call his own.

And I wanted to wrap my arms around him and give him a great big hug. Or at the very least smile at him and say I get it. I really get it.

Because this finding a place to belong thing is hard. It is more than hard: it is a challenge that rules so much of how we behave and so many of the choices we make.

You know we moved across country this summer, leaving everything my youngest had ever known as home and the place the rest of us have called home for a decade. My Little Red put the sticker for her new school on the back of our van weeks before her first day of school. My Claire's wardrobe was filled with t-shirts for Mississippi College at least two months before orientation. And I separate Mason's clothes into darks and purples because so much of his wardrobe is Millsaps-related these days.

The need to belong is strong. And even though they probably didn't even realize it, my children were finding their place, establishing that they belong somewhere in their new home state, their new home town.

I am blessed to have many of my friends from college and even childhood living here. I have reunited with dear dear friends and met several new ones. And yet, I feel the longing to be a part of the group, to be immersed, entrenched, intertwined in relationship that goes beyond the weather and the latest sports news. I want to know where I belong.

Little boy in my MIL's neighborhood thought he had found a quick fix to belonging. He thought in his 9-year-old mind that accepting the right of initiation meant he was in, he was a part of something bigger than himself. 

But the truth is that building relationships and finding a place takes time. It takes energy. It takes an investment of time. When one moves as often as I have had to for our career path, it is easier to lay shallow roots so they can be ripped up easily and replanted. But to belong, the roots need to go deeper. They might hurt a little. And there is no quick fix to digging them deep enough.

So I am here. I am laying roots. I am digging deep.

Maybe I should crochet a shovel.

Carol - The Blessings Counter