We walked into preschool in a fury. I had spent most the 10-minute car ride staring at my daughter contemplate the morning in the rear view mirror. We parked and her demand of, “Promise, one hug and one kiss, okay?” melted the outer lining of the Monday morning hustle to reveal a warm compote of motherly regret in the center.  I had rushed her and raised my voice. I was feeling especially frustrated this morning at having to once again- find the positive in another painful situation.  I felt her little hand in mine as we walked up to the building and I signed, “Ava.” and the time. Soon, I won’t be able to see her toddle over to her friends in adorable awkwardness, or run to say hello.   Soon, kindergarten will come.   The teachers will watch with feigned interest as she starts her day and because her blood is not their blood, and they don’t see a million hopes in her one, single, smile.   They won’t have spent the night comforting her, or the mornings reminding her to brush her teeth or comb her hair.   They won’t have looked at her face and wondered, “If this is what it’s all for, I can be it and do it,” and actually live behind those words.

Walking out after dropping her off, I looked at the grey sky that often is the staple of early mornings in Minnesota winters and I wondered, “Why, again?”   Sometimes, no matter how much drive you have, or wind in your sails;  for an instance you question the entire procedure of life and loss.   It seems so unfair to have to pick yourself back up, brush yourself off only to try again tomorrow.  My eyes darted to the car and I hurried to a jog.   Out of the corner of my eye a single, brilliant, leaf was laying on top of sediment and ice.   I remarked on it’s beauty and reached for my car door.   I placed my hand on the door and instantaneously turned back around.  Suddenly, I just had to see if it was real.  The top was dipped in a crimson as it slowly faded to a brilliant golden-tone.   The bottom matched the stem of a healthy green and it was sizable with veins marking their path along it’s body.   Here it was, untouched in the snow and completely out of place.

Therein, lies the metaphor for my life.   After any experience, I need to know I was genuine and the relationship was authentic.  This leaf and my desire for it’s tangibility had me stunned in a split-second decision.   My fingertips touched the fabric and instantaneously, I knew: it was fake.   For some reason, I didn’t place it back on the ground, I took it with me and tucked it in my purse.  The beauty of it wasn’t diminished because it was a craft-store representation of the real thing.  Perhaps it had been a part of a funeral bouquet, or a service as her preschool is housed in the side office of a church.   Remarkable still, it didn’t matter where this leaf had began, but the fact that it was now mine and strangely beautiful in it’s plastic and silk glory.  Maybe it wasn’t noticeable because the leaf was small, but somewhere, the connector now lays uncoupled.  Here is one piece, and out in the world, there is another.   It’s such a small connection that as much as it mattered once, the symmetry and beauty of the leaf no longer depends on it’s plastic counterpart to be a part of something bigger.  I needed to question- Why was it there? Where had it come from? Did someone, miss it? It didn’t matter to me that the fabric was dyed, or the veins were cheap chemical molds, because this leaf would never die.  It didn’t have a cycle with a beginning and an end.   It never would experience budding into life or falling to it’s demise.  This leaf wasn’t a leaf at all.  It was a decoration, or an afterthought.

It rode in my purse on the commute in.   I wasn’t sure why I had grabbed it until moments ago when tears streamed down my face and I thumbtacked it onto my bulletin board.  Looking closer, I could see the small tears along the outer fabric and the scuff marks and brush strokes of mud and salt.  I learned a lesson this morning: Not everything needs to be ‘real,’ or ‘lasting.’  For someone who strives to make everything ‘authentic,’ sometimes ‘love‘ just isn’t ‘love‘ and a ‘fit‘ just isn’t a ‘fit‘ and silk and plastic and be a fine representation for what it is.   If it had been a real leaf, there would be decay.  Nothing can be frozen perfectly in two weeks of snowstorms.   If it was real, it would have not been noticed after all but laid with the rest of it’s partners in a cold, wet, brown and crunchy grave.   It didn’t matter if it was real or not, because what I’ve made it: Mine.   Now, it has a small pin mark where I’ve put it on display next to two quotes that I read the days I’m in the office and remind myself of who, I really am.

I took down his pictures this morning and with reckless abandon I let them, (still in their frames,) hit the wastebasket with a confident, “thwank!” He’s laying out in the open now, someone might pick him up on the ground and wonder where the other part to his connector was, (although small and barely noticeable.)  I know, it was once there.  Someone else will have to touch and feel and wonder, “is he real?”   I hope he brightens someone’s morning and whoever has him, cherishes what he is and not what they make him out to be.   Maybe, just deep down: We’re all just tossed and scattered, or picked up by gusts of wind out of our control. Pain and control don’t really matter after the fact.  The only thing that matters, is that we remain steadfast to still find the beauty of Monday mornings with more positivity than we can sometimes muster. Somehow to me, this is enough.

I remind myself that there was no point going through it, if I don’t move past it. If I keep replaying it, reliving it, there is no reward. The reward has to be in the letting go… the absence of giving it more time, more meaning and more value. The reward is the clarity of now. The freedom of now. The lightness of now. Now, is my beautiful reward.” – Jodi Hills