And then there was the time that we were returning from a mother-daughter weekend trip to Castine and we got a flat tire.

The tiny clown car we were riding in was filled with sleeping bags, backpacks, two moms and three 10-year-old girls. We waited and waited for AAA, and when the guy finally arrived and changed the tire, Eda, the daughter of the driver of the tiny clown car, said: “Awww … I loved that old tire.”

Some of us handle change and transition better than others. I’m not good at transitions.

I’m good at frenetic shifts from one task to another, but not actual, life-altering transitions. This morning, for example, as the butter was heating up for my omelet, I started a load of laundry. As the eggs were cooking, I called in a prescription. As I was eating my breakfast, I checked my email, and before I left for work, I started another load of laundry.

This manic shifting from one task to another is my way of avoiding life’s big transitions. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.

Giving things away does help.

When my grandmother died in 1988, my mother, an only child, spent days going through my grandmother’s belongings. After the funeral, she asked us all to gather at my grandmother’s house, where we were each given colored dots to mark the things that we wanted.

I chose things that I could fit in my car: a mirror that still sits on my bureau today, a small side table and a round tin of bright red rouge from her sparse make-up supply. The color was called “peach-rose,” and the writing on the back claimed it would blend naturally with your skin tone.

This past weekend, in anticipation of my daughter’s high school graduation and the arrival of relatives from Kansas, Frederick and I cleaned out a room that has become a dumping ground for 12 years of school projects and subject notebooks: math, science and English.

What do you do with your child’s subject notebooks when they no longer need them? Toss, keep, save? We saved.

Two weekends ago, I set up a “free” table in front of our house and filled it with my daughter’s old books and games. Everything was gone by midday – taken away to new homes by kids, neighbors and strangers.

“Offer it up” is an expression I’ve heard my Catholic friends say. I’ve heard them use it for anything from accidentally smashing their thumb with a hammer to being stuck in traffic. Their suffering, big or small, is not wasted if they offer it up to the souls of the dead stuck in purgatory, or so I am told.

Offering up my grandmother’s possessions to her own five children was a way for my mother to ease her suffering and bring us joy.

Becoming an empty nester will never weigh the same as losing a parent, but giving away my daughter’s books and games is my small way of beginning the process of letting go. Or, instead, I could wear a big sign that says: Experiencing a transition – excuse the sad face.

Transitions, although a necessary part of life, are not given enough room to expand and contract.

Instead of slowing down to experience what’s happening, we speed up to get to the other side as quickly as possible. Or at least I do.

If only we were allowed to act like my neighbor’s toddler, Louisa, who is willing to throw herself on the floor a thousand times to prove that she really, really doesn’t want to change her stinky fleece pajamas.

What’s the message of this tale, you ask? Teach your girls how to change a tire.

Jolene McGowan lives and works in Portland with her husband, daughter and dog and has no plans to leave, ever. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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