Do you think it’s true that all people let go of things slowly? Does everyone struggle to release the good as well as the bad aspects of life? Well, I sure do. I think my son was twelve years old before I stopped telling people the extra pounds I was carrying were because I just had a baby! So letting go is hard, when things end or change we sometimes grip tighter to what we are losing. I sometimes think there’s profound spiritual learning in letting go; sometimes I think it just hurts.
I started changing my son’s room into a guest room about 18 months ago. I cleaned out the closet…in stages, putting all his stuffed animals in a bin to take to the basement. Well maybe not all, I left a few in case he needed them. He’s 24 and well, you never know.
I packed away Game Boys and martial arts belts, space ship models and Mickey Mouse pictures. Then I waited. I left the posters of Dave Matthews and Bob Marley. I left the Sushi Calendar, the UU Con pictures… and the stars.
You see this son was a space dreamer. He always had his feet on the ground and his heart in the stars. He dreamed of space adventures and even at three dressed up as a “space ship guy” for Halloween. When he was six or so we filled the walls with glow-in-the-dark star stickers. Invisible until the lights went out, this room expanded beyond all fantasy into a galaxy of wonder.
In the years since he left for college, I sleep in his room sometimes. When I’m restless or struggling with a cold or a snoring husband, I stumble into the waiting solitude. I turn on the light for a few moments, long enough to ignite the stars and then flip the switch to whimsy. I am surrounded by infinity and memory and that luscious combination helps me sleep.
But, after 18 years, this room needed painting. The scotch tape pulled off the drywall and the thumbtacks made holes. All our children are grown and we think about moving, so it makes sense to prepare, slowly. I hired a painter to do this chore, to patch the holes and remove the stars. I tried to pull them off myself, but I couldn’t. This painter has helped us before so I feel comfortable sharing my sadness and longing about the stars. I hear him scrape them off the walls and I see them fallen onto the edges of the carpet. I stand at the door and look back into my memories.
“Do you want me to pick them up?” he asks. “I can put them in a bag for you.”
“No,” I say bravely, “It’s time to let go.”
I hear the sound of the vacuum, so I take the dog for a walk.
The room is finished now, freshly painted and a bit bare. I haven’t slept in there yet, but I walk in often to touch the few knickknacks left from his childhood. And then I see them, two stars on the carpet. I pick them up tenderly and hold them under the lamp. I switch off the light and once again hold his universe in the palm of my hand.