I lost the tassel.
I removed it from the tiny plastic bag ensconced within a larger plastic bag which contained a thin blue robe folded around a cardboard square doubling as a graduation cap. I held the tassel, a royal blue tuft of dangling and corded threads, in my hand and looked around my 8th grader’s crowded bedroom (crowded is a very nice way of saying that he inherited from his father the need to keep anything he has ever loved or used) for a resting place.
And then apparently I blacked out because that is the last time I saw it.
I didn’t think about the tassel much until the other morning when I needed to send it to school with the 8th grader who would be wearing his cap, with its dangling tuft, and gown to the all-school graduation mass.
Tuesday morning, I get up earlier than usual because I know I must gather the graduation gown ready along with some nicer than usual clothes and this stresses me out. Yes, that is what I said–any veering from the regular morning schedule stresses me out (I don’t like change or graduations or proms or baby showers–you get the drift). I set my alarm an hour early, shower, even apply make-up, for heaven’s sake, and then I can’t put my hands on the fucking tassel.
I stop moving and think. I close my eyes because everyone knows this enables stronger and deeper concentration. I remember holding the tassel in my hot little hands, turning it over, letting the long blue fibers run through my fingers. I remember knowing this is an object that could easily be lost. I remember casing the room for a safe place to lay this adornment with its fake gold 2016. I remember, kind of, putting it somewhere. . .
on the bed next to the cap?
on the dresser?
in the wad of trash I stuffed into the garbage can? Oh surely I didn’t accidentally scoop it up with the plastic packaging and dump it into the trash can because that trash is out at the curb right now, waiting for the gobbling blue truck that lifts the matching blue plastic trash cans and dumps them down its gullet as if it’s chugging beers.
I search everywhere. Under the bed where the dust could be mistaken for a wool blanket. In the Legos bin because the grandkids were here; maybe, just maybe, they shoved the missing tassel in with the blocks. On the top bunk of my son’s bed where the tassel could be lost among the 1500 stuffed animals, old practice jerseys, Lakers basketball gear, a couple of track ribbons and some bouncy balls. I lift the mattress because if I were a tassel (or illicit reading material), that is where I would be. By the time I start opening dresser drawers, I’m sighing, breathing heavily,sweating, and muttering about the stupidity of tassels. I am no longer clean and fresh.
It isn’t even 7AM (yes, I know that this is not early for lots of people, but it IS early for me) when I call my sister the principal with the sort of question she hates–do you have another tassel?–and email my son’s teacher who says she will look. By the time I glance at the clock, not only is my extra hour–for drinking coffee, looking at emails, and driving myself crazy with all the stupid Donald Trump posts on FB–gone, but I’m late.
Thankfully, Peanut’s room is also a haven for previously used items–not because she is sentimental but because she shoves everything into drawers when I ask her to clean up. And there in one of those overstuffed drawers is her own 8th grade graduation tassel. Yes, it’s the wrong date, but it will do in a pinch. By the time I am triumphantly holding high the 2013 tassel, my son is sitting on the couch, eating a chocolate chip Pop-tart and calmly drinking a glass of whole milk.
This is when my helpful husband arrives on the scene.
“Do you remember when you had it?” he asks oh, so sweetly.
“He won’t want to wear that old tassel,” he says while wrinkling his nose just a bit at the lack of shimmer in the 2013 on this reusable tassel.
“Did we look under the bed?” he wonders in my direction.
This is a man who once looked beneath a single sheet of typing paper for a USA Today, who loses his keys on a regular basis, whose clothes I find shoved under the couch or up high on the book shelf.
As if he doesn’t notice that I am in a state, he muses as he looks at our son, “Hmmmm, those pants look a little wrinkled.”
He looks at me and asks, “Do you think he needs a nice belt?”
My husband is at this moment, wearing a “belt” he created out of a shoestring he pulled from an old sweatshirt in a giveaway bag. He wears jeans he owned in 1989. They aren’t so much wrinkled as ruined. I’m thisclosetoblowingskyhigh!
We are standing in the front room, looking at our skinny 8th grade graduate, and what I want is for my husband to say, “It’s a fucking 8th grade graduation tassel, for God’s sake. Chill Bridg.” He doesn’t.
We stand there for less than a couple of seconds looking at each other, and what goes through my mind is how much I suck for losing the tassel, how much my husband sucks for passively and aggressively pointing it out, and finally how much we suck for giving a shit about something so trivial, something so small. That’s when I say, “It’s a fucking 8th graduation tassel, for God’s sake. What are we worried about?”
How did I get here again? I mean, I care about big things like poverty and illness and racism and the myriad of ways that women are raped and abused and tortured worldwide. I think about consumerism and global warming and chemicals in the water and the coming implosion of capitalism. I DON’T GIVE A RAT’S ASS ABOUT GRADUATION TASSELS. So what gives?
I like to think I know better, but when it comes to my kids, I get drawn up in wanting everything to be perfect for them, and I can’t help but think that we do our children a grave disservice with our overzealousness in regards to their perfect well-being. If you are not a nut job who likes to believe she can magically think her child into adulthood, I’m sorry. It makes me feel better to use “we” instead of “I”, so if this doesn’t apply to you, you can disregard the inclusion.
If it does apply to you, I hear you. Oh how I hear you, and I know your pain. You and I can be kooks together with a whole lot of other folks, but we can change too. We can start small, like maybe not congratulating our children, or ourselves, so often with ceremonies and trophies and medals and certificates and pizza parties. We can be proud of them without banquets or t-shirts that say “Sheldon’s Mom.” We can stop believing the huge lie that if everything isn’t just right, we will have failed.
You know what? Our kids are going to get hurt. They are going to fail and fall with or without our incessant hovering.
We want to believe that our lavish efforts will be rewarded with happy, successful children. That the logical outcome is brilliant and good children who become better and brighter adults. But what if our efforts have the opposite effect? What if we are turning our children into praise-junkies? What would happen if we just expected them to work hard, to be good, to do good, because they are human beings with a responsibility to the world they live in, because that will fill them up in a way that praise or awards or tassels never could.
I think it’s worth a shot.
Don’t get me wrong. I am proud of all of my kids. I was so proud at the graduation mass the other day that I cried. My kid is smart and funny and handsome as hell, and I don’t think he gave a shit about that tassel. His teacher did find one though–a shiny new 2016 tassel that he wore on his cap proudly.
In the case of the missing tassel–I have yet to find it. The pug’s been wheezing, so I’m on the lookout for royal blue threads in the spit he coughs up all over the house. As of today, there is no evidence to convict him of any wrongdoing.