It all started with the lobster.
Last August we were in NC at the beach. We took a day trip to an aquarium and enjoyed being out of the sun, seeing something new, and being together. Things started out a little dicey, as Margaret wasn't in the best mood, but a quick talking to from Tim, and the hilarious sight of two box turtles mating turned her frown to a smile.
We approached a huge glass tank and Jack thrust out a finger, pointed to a lobster, and said in a funny voice, "You're my PAL!" We laughed, and as we passed window after window, teeming with fish and ocean creatures, we each picked a "Pal." By the end, we had a lot a pals, and we headed back to the beach house.
Less than two weeks later, with Jack gone, our minds reeled with how to cultivate his legacy, how to hang onto him in a way we weren't able to do physically since he was so cruelly swept away from us. Margaret, on her own volition, did a google search looking for organizations that either donated Legos to needy kids or helped to "save the lobsters," because legos and lobsters reminded her of her brother.
I was reminded of how our friend Glennon, on her amazing blog, called her sister her lobster. It was something about how lobsters take care of each other and all that. Sounded like Jack and Margaret to me.
So, with all this in mind, I bought Margaret a stuffed lobster from the thrift store, wrapped it up, and gave it to her "From Jack" on our first quiet Christmas morning as a family of three. She loved it, and the lobster has accompanied her as she's had to do hard things, like go to grief camp.
Last Sunday, we went to an open house in our town. This is one of my favorite activities, which is only mildly tolerated by the rest of the family. The historic house was devoid of furniture or decoration. When we got up to a tiny second floor office, we saw a huge, and I mean HUGE stuffed lobster sitting there. It was a bit dirty and had a yard sale price tag attached to its claw. We're talking so big that you could just tell whichever mom had managed to wrest it away from her kids and get it out of her house had probably felt the walls expand a little at that moment.
We laughed at the improbability of seeing the lobster there, in an otherwise empty house, and Margaret looked at me like... PLEASE?!? I didn't know if I could muster up the courage to ask the real estate agent if the lobster was for sale, or if I even wanted to. I mean, I've spent many moments in my own house bagging up annoying stuffed animals-- which have somehow managed to breed in the recesses of my kids' rooms-- and smuggling them out of the house under cover of darkness. If the lady did say yes, we'd end up with a HUGE lobster in our house.
But here's the thing. Margaret considered this lobster sighting a smile from Jack, so I wanted to do something. I tried to shove it off on Tim, but he looked at me like I had three heads. Remember how I've said no one in our relationship can speak up and return pants? Prime example.
"The worst thing that could happen is that she'll say no," Margaret said.
I went down the stairs and said, "The house is nice but what we really liked was that stuffed lobster upstairs. My daughter collects them, so if you want to get rid of that one, we'd be happy to buy it from you." She responded, warmly enough, but did not bite. "Oh, I picked that up at a yard sale to stage the house." Ummm... interesting decor choice, to say the least, but it was clear the lobster was staying.
After we left, I thought about it some more.
I thought about all the times I could have spoken up for my kids over the years, in tiny ways like this one, and big ways. Whether for Jack in preschool when his teacher, clearly irritated with him, would say in front of everyone, "He's just too smart for his own good," or even on that horrible September night when I went home to my kitchen to wait because I'd been told to. I just quietly went home. I mean what kid of mother DOES that?
I had ingrained in the kids, and in myself, "You get what you get and you don't get upset," you never ask for special favors, and you don't make a fuss about anything; but while that seemed appropriate when doling out popsicle flavors, was that the message I wanted to teach them about EVERYTHING?
What about Life? Love? Lobsters?
So I set my awkward feelings aside and found the realtor's email address. I secretly wrote her about our situation and asked if she might be willing to sell us the stuffed lobster when the vacant house sold.
It wasn't a big move, but it took me out of my comfort zone. The agent responded immediately and graciously. Because of her generosity. in a few short days an enormous yard sale stuffed lobster, hopefully not riddled with head lice, will show up on our doorstep at no charge!
I hope Margaret will look at her new pal and see it really DIDN'T hurt to ask.