“Your tears are black,” my son says in surprise, pulling away from my hug.
I get to tell him how mascara works.
I don’t mind my son seeing me cry, although I don’t cry often which is probably why he’s shocked. I’m less okay that he’s just overheard a heated – and let’s face it, at moments ugly – conversation between his father and I. About money. Which is really about stress, and security. Which is about Trust, which is about Faith, which is about seeing the world as it is. And now my boy, my nine-year old, he runs through the house ridding his wallet of change, and “bottling” up some maple syrup to sell. “I want to help you find money,” he tells me now. “I can shoeshine,” he tells me.
I’m still crying but at least I have the sense not to cry over this too, not to be maudlin my kid gets to go through this. I sit down on the little speaker-amp in our warm kitchen and I put my arms around him. “Little dude,” I tell him, taking a deep breath. “You have one job, and it’s to be a Little Guy. That’s your job. It isn’t your job to give us money or to try to find it. Your parents are grownups and they can handle the money stuff.” I tell him. I can feel him relax a little – thinking about the job of being a Little Guy, probably. He puffs up a bit. He can be a Little Guy.
Money trouble means you can’t keep shit all tidy. As much as you might try. I’ve got a sense of purpose and dignity though. I don’t apologize when paying for gas with change and I don’t apologize when we find ourselves in some ridiculous scenario (I could name five this last week!) – as long as I haven’t wronged someone by being there. Not-apologizing and not-blaming are the practices that keep me grateful, keep me grounded. Helping others – it keeps me grounded. Taking help when it’s offered (I could name five times this last week!) – keeps me grounded.
There is so much letting-go involved in financial and food insecurity. Faith and letting-go are part of the process, like a dance, and sometimes you get that wobble. Now I warm up the car and I take a deep breath. I gotta be careful not to get addicted to the hustle; to live my life such that if one day I don’t have to hustle, I can step gracefully into that new life. I hear people say you can get addicted to Drama and I get it. Drama keeps us distracted, tells us our Plan is a good one, or a necessary one, or that we can let ourselves go because Suffering, or all the above.
Driving off my little guy is speaking to me and I can hear him, because I can take those deep breaths. I tell him It’s okay Nels. We won’t let you down. We never have. Promise. We turn up the street and he’s relaxed fully; into a local shop selling computer scrap. Nels takes some candies from the jar and I run up, then down the stairs, leaving the box behind. I get down to my son in his little knit cap and I’m the Luckiest Woman on earth.