My world was eroding from under me in a series of small avalanches. It didn't take long before I was envisioning the IRS seizing our current home, leaving five children and me homeless. That car would be pretty small for all of us to live in! Maybe we could buy a little trailer. What about the four cats and two dogs? Would I have to tell the children to find homes for their pets?
Immediately we put the house on the market. Maybe it would sell quickly. In desperation, I began running ads for everything we had of value. Our furniture, freezer, greenhouse and my wedding ring sold quickly. Then we began regular runs to the local Goodwill truck to drop off anything and everything we could live without and to hunt for boxes.
In between, we made trips to the offices of orthopedic surgeons and pharmacies, and watched Robin grimace with every movement.
Our lives became a grim sequence of sorting, boxing and cleaning. We spent time praying that the real estate agent would produce a miracle quickly. As the proverbial straws piled up, I noted guiltily that I grew more snappy, stressed and curt toward my children. Unfortunately, the guilt only added to my frustrations, and I spent longer periods hiding in the shower, crying.
One day, during a brief break at the park, the littlest child, Larkin, bounced over to bring me a wish seed, the downy thistle seed that children wish upon and blow away. According to the myth, if the seed travels far enough (the exact distance being unknown), the wish will come true. Half-heartedly, I took the seed and prayed silently to God for serenity, patience and guidance and to be a better parent and handle things more calmly. Smiling at Larkin's eager face, I sent it on its way.
The next few days we spent labeling, boxing and discarding the remainder of our physical lives. Gloom hovered over the house, threatening to swallow what was left of us.
So far, there was no buyer in sight, and the IRS sent a more serious demand. My son needed surgery and was devastated at his inability to help with the physical demands of moving. He was on painkillers and slept most of the day. Meanwhile, the doctor's office fought with the camp's insurance company to authorize surgery.
One afternoon, I took the youngest four to the roller rink to let off steam and keep a semblance of normalcy in our lives. As I skated round and round, the usual routine failed to soothe me. Details of everything that needed handling circled mercilessly in my head. To my embarrassment, tears burned
behind my eyes, threatening to spill. Fear, fatigue, being overwhelmed and the unrelenting summer heat chewed at me.
The rink's air conditioner was broken that day and the owner skated past me, throwing open the back doors to allow the breeze inside before we all melted. A wave of warm air rushed past me, and then I saw it. Floating straight toward me was a wish seed. It settled, trembling, into the hand I reached out.
The most amazing sense of absurdity washed over me. What was this? God was rejecting my wish, too? Had he finally grown sick of all my griping and complaining? I began to giggle. Waves of giggles pushed out past the tears and sent them spilling down my cheeks. I skated on, clutching the wish seed between two fingers, tears running down my face and laughing. From my children's expressions, it was quite clear how strange I looked. Mom had finally gone around the bend.
Eventually, the giggling stopped and was replaced by a sense of complete calm. That serene feeling remained when we left the rink, and lingered for days. For the first time since life had begun unraveling, I was able to handle things without a constant undercurrent of panic.
Of course, none of the problems magically disappeared. However, things began to fall smoothly into place.
My son's surgery was, after all, covered by the camp's insurance, and went off successfully.
The district attorney recovered the year's back support owed by the children's father, allowing me to pay the mortgage and send the IRS the first of many payments.
My sister paid back an old loan.
Two checks arrived for articles that I had sold months back. And so it went. The more I stopped obsessing, the more smoothly events transpired.
On my desk today, I have a framed piece of white paper, on which is affixed a single wish seed. For those who ask, I just say it was the first time that God sent me a return receipt for a prayer.
Lizanne Southgate (c) 1998
From Chicken Soup for the Single's Soul
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