Sunday, January 23, 2011

envy looks back

They were all lined up on her bookcase. Dozens and dozens of them, their pudgy little bodies forever solidifying Sarah's stance in my eyes as cool. Each one of them boasted of its own experience--a meal of coveted chicken nuggets, or a plastiky cheeseburger, with fries and maybe even a Coke.

Sarah's mom is so cool, my five-year-old mind thought.

She's got 34 McNugget Buddies to prove it.

Here began my relationship with Envy, a friend with something to say about everything. 

Fourth grade lunches were had under a pathetic sapling, striving to be something greater, where Kelly, Nicole, Dana and I circled and sat. As we unpacked our statements of status, my familiar friend Envy polarized my thoughts. I glanced at Dana's fruit snacks, those rubbery, sweet things that were supposed to taste like the flavors their fruit shapes held.

Poor you, Envy whispered, you just have real fruit. And my apple slices were browning.

Envy pointed out Nicole's white bread and then my oatmeal-dusted wheat bread. There were Juicy Juice boxes, compared to my water bottle, and Lunchables compared to my peanut butter and honey sandwich.

Envy continued her parade in my thoughts, usually unchecked.

In fifth grade, I noticed how Marisa's clothes were store-bought, and mine were sewn by Mom. Yes, we had fun going to JoAnn's, thumbing through giant books of patterns, choosing the fabrics and prints, and then watching the clothes come together, piece by piece, over days of cutting and pinning and sewing. But those tags on Marisa's clothes.  

Those tags were cool.

I'm a mom now. And I'm starting to prepare lunches and clothe my children and choose which experiences we'll share and those we won't.

And I'm just a little angry with my friend Envy because the things she whispered, the feelings she imparted, weren't based in truth. Envy did not have my best interest in mind.

But Mom did.

While Sarah was busy collecting her McNugget Buddies, my mom was at home, making home-made cheese sauce for her version of mac n' cheese, sparing us kids the TBHQ and dimethylpolysiloxane.

While Dana's mom was buying her Lunchables and fruit snacks, mine was preparing sandwiches with real protein and fiber, believing that fruit should taste like fruit and not reconstituted corn syrup. 

And while Marisa’s mom took her on shopping trips, trips that Mom and I would eventually have, my mom and I spent hours and hours creating those tagless clothes together, memories I wouldn’t trade even now for a pair of Seven jeans.

Envy tries to whisper to me now, even though I should be way past this childish covetousness and pettiness. She points out brands and status symbols and LeCruset cookingware. I’m trying to recognize her voice a little bit faster, and dismantle her influence a little more frequently. She’s never loved me, like my mom and my husband and my God. Why I’ve given her this power over my thoughts, I’m not sure; it’s probably just the way of human nature.

I’m happy to say, though, that she looks different. She’s no longer a welcomed presence in my life, holding my trust in hand because she lets me know what’s cool, sparing me rejection. Envy represents the ugly parts of me and I want nothing to do with her now.

I’d like to be the kind of mom that packs less-than-cool lunches, with snacks that don't have their own commercials, and that probably won't get traded, because I care for my kids. 

And I’d like to be the kind of daughter who can receive the goodness of life that her Father God gives, from whole wheat bread to off-brand sneakers, from authentic friendships to security in a husband's love, without leaning in to listen when Envy comes around and whispers.


  1. April, I hope you keep doing this blogging thing. I'm really enjoying your writing. My wife and I were cracking up remembering our own similar "envy" moments. School lunches are indeed such status moments! I'll never forget my banana-seat bicycle: the "Prairie Flower." That bike had a great deal to do with my own personal growth, I'm sure of that now.