When we bought our house in 1992, my mother-in-law arrived bearing gifts to stock our new pantry.
One item was an industrial sized plastic wrap. By this, I mean the kind that requires two hands to plop on a counter, two hands to tear and could wrap the Tobin Bridge twice.
While I thanked her politely, I chafed inside. I prefer the wrap that only requires one hand to hold and the other to tear. I wondered if I would ever use up this wrap and I wondered why she was foisting her ways on me.
At the time, my mother-in-law's nest had recently emptied. The youngest of her four children married and moved out and her years of needing large quantities of everything had ended.
She was not transitioning easily and still tended to run to B.J.'s for everything. When her cupboards exploded with extra stuff, she would transfer the excess ketchup, mustard, American cheese or whatever to smaller jars and packages and dole them out to her children in their own new homes.
Over the years, I used the wrap as needed. Two years after my triplets were born, she sadly died of cancer, leaving a large hole in all our lives. But, I was reminded of her in many ways large and small -- and always when I used the wrap.
It started to grow on me over the years because it was never gone. I got into a pinch once wrapping 30 party favors for the boys' birthday, but the trusty plastic wrap bailed me out.
One day, some nine years after her death and 14 years after the gift of the wrap, I trotted the box out of the pantry, plopped it on the counter and with two hands tore off the last piece to wrap a few carrots.
My own reaction startled me as the tears immediately came to my eyes. How could it be gone?
I sat down and pondered it all. I recalled my own frustration with the wrap when she gave it to me and with her tendency to over buy. I remembered my own mellowed stance toward the wrap as I matured.
But mostly, I realized how much my life had come to resemble hers. Now I had four children. Now I needed large quantities of everything. Sometimes, I went to B.J.'s.
My mother-in-law was the first parent we lost therefore she missed the most of our lives as parents. She never met all of her grandchilden and didn't know any of them out of the toddler years. Over the last seven years, we have lost all our parents. Those who have been through this know that there are predictable moments and milestones when you wish they were there to celebrate and commemorate.
But there are other moments, when a little thing grabs you and you remember them and well up with tears unexpectedly. I have come to think of these as my plastic wrap moments.
I must come clean and confess that I replaced the plastic wrap with the smaller, single-handed version that I prefer.
But, I didn't replace that sense of the way our lives come to resemble that of our parents and the way we often learn to appreciate their quirks after they are gone.