Always the Perfect Gift

We are moving this weekend, so this week has been full of goodbye gatherings, boxes and packing paper, remembering to pick up dry cleaning, and forgetting that the silverware is already packed when attempting to eat yogurt. The packers spent nine hours in our condo, and one of the conscientious packers asked me a few questions regarding where items should go and how I’d like them labeled. Typically-and I’m not proud of this-I would drive the packers crazy hovering in the room making sure they packed everything just so and labeled boxes with as much detail as possible.

However, this week when nice packer man asked me specific questions about random objects, I thought, “I don’t really care; do whatever you want.” I was indifferent when asked questions that would typically make my OCD self thrive. He went back to packing in the kitchen, and I went to the master bedroom to pack a few things I wanted to be sure didn’t end up on a truck like cards my mom had written, the small glass container with a lock of her hair, a few outfits to get me through the next week, and some gift cards.

And while I was packing, grief came at me like a freight train. I couldn’t breathe. My face was burning up and I was in a cold sweat. I thought I was going to suffocate. So I left. I left the packers to do their job (what a concept!) and told my husband I was going to run errands and pick up lunch.

I tried to give myself a pep talk in the car about getting it together, but I was unsuccessful. I cried all the way to the dry cleaners, and left my Jackie O sunglasses on when I went inside to fetch my clothes. Thank sweet baby Jesus the usually friendly owner didn’t ask me how I was doing.

I managed to walk next door to Potbelly and order lunch sans crying, so I was feeling pretty proud of myself and like a functional adult by the time I got to Office Depot. When the uber friendly employee asked what brought me in, I was able to recall exactly why I was there. I managed to get only what I needed and get in line to check-out. I was practically citizen of the month.

I was reaching for my wallet when I noticed the display of pepper spray by the register. Breast cancer fundraiser pepper spray to be precise. And the sign above said display read, “Always the perfect gift.”

I’m not sure how long I stared at the display, but it was long enough that the cashier asked me if there was anything else I needed. I told her, “I need for this stupid display to be gone. Who the hell wants to be reminded of cancer in the middle of getting mugged? That is just absurd.” She replied, “We just put out what corporate tells us to put out. Sorry if it upsets you.” I swiped my debit card and said, “I’m shocked it doesn’t upset more people. Also, it’s never the ‘perfect gift.’ I’ll tell you what’s the perfect gift: not needing pepper spray and not having cancer.” And that was my grand Office Depot exit.

When I returned home we ate our Potbelly on placemats of packing paper and I stared into the space between boxes. My husband asked if I was ok and I blubbered, “No, I’m not ok. My mom is dead, and we’re moving, and I’m tired of telling everyone goodbye this year, and this isn’t even the salad I ordered, and breast cancer pepper spray is so stupid.” You know, run of the mill lunch conversation.

Our condo is empty now, and all of the replaceable material things are loaded onto the truck and en route to the Motherland of North Carolina. Prior to driving the truck away, the driver gave us copies of all the inventory forms and said to be sure to confirm everything is present and accounted for next week in the new apartment. He asked for estimated values of various items and was a polite as could be. As he left, he said not to worry that he’d get everything to us in perfect condition. Typically my control freak self would have thought, “Let’s hope so.” But instead I thought, “I have a lock of my mama’s hair in my suitcase, and the voice recording of our last conversation hours before she died on my iPhone. And that’s all I need to get me back to the Motherland in perfect condition.”

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