It’s that time again: crisp air, clear blue sunny skies, scents of pumpkin flock the stores next to back-to-school paraphernalia.
Feeling down and lonely with my thoughts all over the goddamn place, I decide to take a jaunt to the nearby Dollar General and treat myself to a seasonally scented candle. Candles are soothing and fill this house with nostalgic smells of impending autumns long past when life made some sort of sense.
Within 3 minutes of browsing the aisles, I realize I’ve overstepped. All the cute Halloween decorations remind me of how thrilled I used to be decorating the house with cute Halloween stuff for my daughters and their friends.
Flashbacks like sporadic scenes from various movies start flipping through my mind…
Brain decides to pretend it’s any year at all prior to 2012: Oh, the girls would really love those sparkly sunflower yard ornaments. Those cute pumpkins would be perfect for the girls’ rooms…
The back-to school stuff reminds me of gathering supplies; browsing the aisles with two absolutely amazing children while discussing all the foreseeable fears, problems, and excitements of heading into 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th grade…. Me, chatting along with them, trying to be totally nonchalant about my fears of having enough money for all the school supplies they need and silently praying I might have enough for at least one thing they each just want.
FUCK! Now, I’m in the goddamn Dollar General crying. Should have stayed home. At least there, no one can see me be pathetic.
I keep my face turned toward and buried in the crowded shelves, away from any customers,
mortified with the tears I can’t stop and hiding my face deeply engrossed in whatever the hell’s displayed on that shelf.
Ah…at last! The candles! Hot tears still streaming down my face, I sniff the Pumpkin Pie, The Pecan Muffin, the Apple Currant… Okay, so I smell all the fucking candles, desperately hoping the movie snippets playing in my head will stop so I can pull myself together enough to select one and face the cashier.
I am GOING TO TREAT MYSELF TO A CANDLE, DAMMIT! Today, this time, I am NOT sneaking right back out the door empty handed and desperate to hide my crybaby face.
I select the Apple Currant candle since it carries the least agony of nostalgia.
I make it through the check out with what I tell myself are just curious odd looks from the cashier at my tear stained red face, probably scrunched in desperate focus to not start crying again.
I step outside the store with my little plastic yellow bag and suddenly out of nowhere, I smell the very distinct and ancient scent of – of all things – my elementary school cafeteria?
Grainy pink soap and doughy pizza burgers, the scent almost seems speckled with tiny flecks of gold sparkles in the cafeteria’s linoleum floor.
For whatever reason, this olfactory nostalgia sets the ridiculous crybaby in me off again. Now, I’m walking to my car sobbing through the Dollar General parking lot.
Christ almighty, what the hell is wrong with me? I’m a goddamn sloppy pathetic mess of obnoxious tears and inescapable agony.
In my car, I keep my head down, fervently hoping no one sees me pathetically bawling like this, like a pitiful, unstable, insane person The pain tearing through my heart is UNBEARABLE!
I can’t. I just can’t.
Maybe I should go back in and grab a bottle of that cheap wine they sell? Maybe I could go home, light my lovely scented candle and treat myself to a glass or two of a mildly mind-numbing beverage?
No. Then I’d just be plagued with guilt and frantic over whether that means I’m a raging alcoholic like the narcissists and my children accused when my dad died. Wine won’t bring any real moments of relief anyway. Forget it.
Nah, I’ll just bite down on the wooden spoon and hold my breath through this soul ripping agony au naturelle, no choice but to suffer through every damn pinch, stab, punch, and pull as usual.
There is no solution to this pain. There is no fix, not temporary or permanent.
Keep a candle burning in the window til they come home. When they finally arrive home again, they’ll love the comforting smell in the house and remember the truth of all our years together, happy… I can almost see the delighted smiles on their face as they say, Momma, it smells so good in here! as they realize I never really stopped waiting for them.
Once home, I immediately put the candle in the window, like I have since my children betrayed, attacked, and abandoned, and shunned me.
I no longer can remember how it feels to not hurt all the time.
I forget what my face feels like to smile. I can’t remember the sound of my own laugh. I don’t remember what I look like without the deep agony-bearing furrow in between my eyes.
But I can remember the smell of my elementary school cafeteria.
And I vaguely remember the delight of getting hugs from my children every day and every night.
I distantly…like looking way down a dark underground tunnel…squinting my eyes to see way to the tiny end… remember the security of hearing my dad’s voice on the other end of a phone call.
And, I can remember the sound of giggles and laughter being a part of every single day. Then, I suddenly feel the depth of pain to remember that we didn’t go one full day in 15 years without the sound of carefree laughter floating around our lives.
I remember the sound, but I can’t hear it anymore.
Keep a candle burning in the window til they come home.
I think it’s now more like, keep a candle burning in the window til I get to go home. Wherever home is, I’m not sure anymore, but it’s GOT to be somewhere — anywhere — that makes this infuriating, unbearable, constant pain stop once and for all.
Now, I’ll keep a candle burning in the window til the day comes when I finally get to go home.