When the thermometer inched past 60 degrees last week, everyone seemed to catch a bout of spring fever. Though the warmth was fleeting, it held a promise of renewal we hadn’t felt in months, sending everyone into a frenzied mode of cleaning. My daughters brushed cobwebs off their bikes and took to the road, my husband found a rake to tackle our dormant lawn, the neighbors swept leaves out of their fire pit, and I … well, I retreated indoors to an area most in need of attention: my 14-year-old’s bedroom closet.
I was ready to purge—with her permission—the piles of too-small T-shirts and shoes that were trendy no more, along with forgotten stuffed animals, ripped drawstring bags, a pair of crushed Mickey Mouse ears, and several granola bar wrappers. As I sorted and folded, stacked and arranged, the opened windows welcomed in mild breezes, seeming to refresh and purify all that surrounded me, confirming an instinctive need for renewal. This to Goodwill, that to recycling. I was on a roll. The piles of donations grew while the piles of clutter shrank …until the last hanger made me pause.
Pushed to back of the closet, encased in a plastic dry-cleaning bag hung my daughter’s First Communion dress, still as white as the day she wore it. Oh, should that go too? I wondered, weighing my sentimental attachment with my practical need to pare down possessions. A consignment shop would love this. Fingering the tiny pearls and embroidered florals stitched near the hem, I pictured her, not only on the steps of the altar or near the cherry trees with her friends, but in front of a mirror at JCPenney, taking a short gasp at her reflection and whispering, “Can I twirl?” And twirl she did, with all the innocence of a seven-year-old, poised to continue on her faithful journey, one which she had reaffirmed just weeks ago in another white dress at her Confirmation.
What needs to go as we shed the inessential weight of our lives and aim to declutter? And what must stay because it’s an undeniable part of our past? “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit,” Psalm 51 advises, but at that moment, my spirit was not as steadfast as I wished it could be. The symbolism of spring and renewal was not lost on me as I held this dress in my hands, contemplating its future. While breezes gently stirred my heap of castoffs, I felt the importance of the past and the knowledge that we don’t need to let go of everything all at once to start fresh—just that burdensome excess like the piles of leaves in the yard or the old pair of Converse in its box. This cleansing of our lives is cyclical and ongoing, whether from the depths of a teenager’s closet or in the refreshing of our souls.
I placed the dress back on the hanger, behind the now orderly rack of shoes. Shedding cobwebs, tossing wrappers, and raking leaves I could handle. But that symbolic purity of youth needed to remain—at least until the next 65-degree day.