A few weeks back someone reminded me that school was about to start. At first, I thought of increased traffic, longer lines for coffee at Starbucks but then I thought, “Wasn’t it fun to buy school supplies?”
My mind was immediately whisked to those school beginnings each year when we had our list of school supplies in hand and walked into Page Drug in our neighborhood-that magical place. Sweet sugary smells of malts and milkshakes met you as you opened the door. Children’s excited voices were heard up and down the rows where stacks of fresh paper, binders, pencils and pens were lined up in neat rows just waiting for the new owners to pluck them off the racks.
I was transported to the young me, standing in the aisle with my mother gazing at the Crayola crayons. Box of 8 the list said. And a box of 8 is what I knew would go into the little shopping cart. Wistfully, I looked at the larger boxes of 16 and 24 knowing that the kids who “lived the good life” would be buying those. I would soon own the box with the sad little single row of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown and black. I longed to have the box with 2 rows or even 3 rows with colors that included crayons with names made up of two words such as BLUE GRAY or ORANGE RED. My childhood interpretation was that if you became the owner of these crayons of abundance crayons it meant that you either had parents that loved you enough to buy more than the basics or simply had enough money to fulfill childhood wishes. I wasn’t sure. But what it meant was that as a child, I interpreted my little purchase of 8 crayons as a big lack-either love or financial ability…. I never knew which and was afraid to explore the question. I was a child of uncertainty.
I worried ALL the time. I worried about trips to the dentist and was so grateful when my mother either forgot to take me for a few years or maybe couldn’t afford it. I’m not sure which. I can remember a time when a dental visit had been made which I had worried over for weeks. As soon as it was over, I didn’t think...” Whew, that went well” I thought….” Now what shall do I have to worry about.”
Looking back at my childhood, I don’t believe I was unloved. I think my parents did the best they could and were simply not aware of the importance love has for a child’s development. I think that they believed that if there were clothes to wear, food to eat and a place to sleep at night, they were fulfilling a parent’s duties. My parents were raised during the depression and experienced difficult lives that included not enough to wear and often not enough to eat. In my mother’s case, she had a father who abandoned the family and sometimes there was no place to sleep. She didn’t want to talk about it, but I did hear stories of her sleeping out of doors when there was no other option.
So, I come by my concerns naturally. If we believe in epigenetics (meaning that a parent's experiences, in the form of epigenetic tags attached to DNA, can be passed down to future generations) my worrying about the future might have been inherited from my parents. And because my parents were raised with uncertainty about love as well as resources, this how their parenting manifested. If one box of 8 crayons was all that was needed even though there might be other options, this is what would be provided.
I’ve grown up and I’ve long ago grown out of worrying. Through reflection I know that we don’t have to repeat our parents’ actions, I know that love and abundance is what life is about. It is not about lack, about worry, about fear. We don’t have to carry our childhood experiences into adulthood. We don’t have to settle for a box of 8 crayons if we feel we can use more or if the big box simply brings us joy. Being mindful of not overcompensating and swinging the other direction toward excess, the symbolism is there. I can choose. The box of 8 is OK and the box of 152 with a sharpener and caddy is OK too.
My life no longer includes worry. I live a life of peace, joy and abundant love. And frankly, a box of 8 suits me just fine!