i found out my local disney store is closing. it felt like a gut punch when i saw the sign. it’s the sweet store we took baby scouty to so many times. then when charlie boy came along, it was a joy to introduce him to our fun little NorthPark loop. it was a sweet place, a small dose of magic, a little emotional reprieve for the homesick Disnerds in all of us. to say i was surprised was an understatement. it was an instant sadness.
my first response was panic. full-on panic that didn’t even make a ton of sense to me. but i looked at my sweet mama and said, “i am panicking. i don’t know why. can you make sure Charlie stays okay?” i started to walk around for a second, and then i wanted to call my sister. (duh.) it was an entire flood of emotions all at once, and i could feel myself unraveling a little bit in the middle of a closing down disney store. my mask felt tighter than normal, and my head felt dizzy. everywhere i looked, the items were 20% off and all sales final when i wanted them to be full price and staying put. i really did just panic for a minute there. i DID call my sister and we talked for about 30 seconds, and then i said, “okay, i’m going to be with Charlie now.”
and here the tears come as i type this part. i knew i was going to miss this (suddenly numbered) time with him, otherwise. i really couldn’t fully unravel then and there. he didn’t know any of it. how could he? he can’t read. the music was happy and everything looked the same to him. at this age, his mood is 100% determined on what his people are feeling and projecting. he was just excited for a surprise trip to one of his favorite places. he ran in and out of the mirrors and looked at the toys and wished they were playing fun movies on their big projector. he was just happy and 4 and content with his mama and his nan. and i didn’t want to miss it. inside, for whatever reason, i was fully unraveling. but on the outside, i had a precious little life in front of me that was content and joyful, wearing a mask without complaint, thankful for the outing and quality time together.
i let him pick out new masks. he was so excited to see a darth vader one in his size. (“do you know what his theme song is, mama? THE IMPERIAL MARCH.”) i tried so hard to be excited as i choked back confusing tears. i tried and was thankful for my mama filling in the blanks for me. then, through tears i couldn’t hold back, i looked at her and said, “this is exactly what it feels like to have a young kid in a pandemic.” and something in me broke open and rejoiced to be heard and it all made a little more sense for me. we have tried to explain it many times before. how we have had to hold it together even when we’re falling apart inside. how the world shut down and dinner had to be eaten. how everything was falling apart in our world and we still had to convey, daily, “look at mama. do i look scared? it’s going to be okay.” and then we had to look to God so He could say, “Look at Me. Do I look scared? It’s going to be okay.” and nothing felt okay and still doesn’t most days. but we were, and all, a little okay.
and even now, as i type, the tears are free flowing. the store is closing, and that is tremendously sad on a silly, personal level. (and on a non-personal level as that many more cast members suddenly find themselves without an income.) for The Idiots, it will be okay, of course. we will make new memories and new routines and always, always reach for the joy or make it ourselves. our kiddos will be sad, and so will we. but we will be okay. but it somehow encompasses the weight of loss of these last 13 months. these life changes, these hits that make us say, “OH. OW. oh wow, i wasn’t expecting that. okay. give me a second, and i’ll adjust. wow. that was just not what i was thinking would happen.” we are called cowards if we turn off the news. or watch the wrong news. or repost something we believe in. or don’t repost if we disagree. religion, politics, ethics have blurred into 1 entity, and every day we wake up to something new in our face that says “THIS MATTERS THE MOST.” and it’s just the most overwhelming weight to feel all of it and still find a smile and a good morning and let’s make some breakfast and turn on the diffusers and the Epcot music loop on youtube. i read recently that a non-traumatic childhood isn’t one void of trauma. it’s one where children are able to freely process the trauma they’ve encountered. that gave me a flood of relief i didn’t know i needed. as long as we can keep making Mickey shaped waffles and talking about every feeling under the sun, it can still be okay for him. for them. for all of us.
we got in the car and turned on moonshadow by Cat Stevens and let the tears flow a little more freely. that felt good. charlie couldn’t understand why the two grownups in the car were quietly crying. and i told him that our disney store was going to eventually close. (he, like me, processes best knowing the gentle truth and talking about it openly.) i told him that mama was crying because mama is a big crybaby and i love that about myself and it’s how my brain chooses to process big feelings. i asked if he remembered when Bing Bong was sad after his rocket was thrown overboard on Inside Out. joy panicked and tried to make him laugh, but it didn’t work. he had lost something. sadness sat down next to him, so he wouldn’t be alone. he cried caramels and grieved the loss of his friend for a second. i asked charlie what happened next, and Becky Nan whispered, “i know this one! he died. he jumps off a moving rocket and dies.” okay, mama, you’re NOT wrong, but also not the answer i was looking for. thanks for the tears AND belly laugh though. Sadness sits with Bing Bong, listens to his grief, hugs him, and lets him cry. after a few seconds, he wipes his tears, and he looks at Joy and Sadness both and says, “i’m okay now. come on.”
as the year mark came and went, i find myself remembering what life was like this time last year. and i grieve for us all. for the fear and the uncertainty and the loneliness and the unity and the signs in windows and the neighborhood walks and the genuine concern for our fellow man. that was a painful time. that was a sweet time. that was a forever time, and i feel it deserves my tears now. soon, probably very soon, a tiny bit of numbness and resolve will kick in for me, and i will be completely on board with dinner and game night and dance parties and campfire cookouts. but for a little minute here, my heart and my mind and my whole being are going to be open to the weight of it all. and i’ll grieve in a closing disney store while still smiling happily at my sweet boy, giddy about his new darth vader mask.