The Last Box
by Ferida Wolff
I am ready for my morning shower and am rummaging around in my bathroom vanity looking for the loofah sponge that had somehow been shoved all the way to the back. I find it behind the towels, half-hidden under the extra bath mat. Next to a forgotten box of tampons. I have cleaned this space before. How can I have missed it?
I drag out this last box. How many boxes had I bought over how many years? Tampons accompanied me wherever I went. They were a staple of life. I would sooner have given up food than be without my tampons. Now I have no use for them.
I am about to toss the box into the waste basket beside the sink when I suddenly have to sit down. I am unprepared for the flood of emotions that washes over me.
“Wait,” an inner voice yells. “You can’t throw away the tampons, what if you need them?”
I haven’t had my period for over a year. By all accounts, if you aren’t menstruating for a year, you’re done. But now I am curiously hesitant. Maybe I shouldn’t throw them out. After all, you can never be sure of anything.
Then reason asserts itself. No period, no need for tampons. Once again I reach out to throw them away when that voice asks, “Will you be giving up on your youth if you get rid of the major sign of a woman’s vitality?”
“A tampon is only a tampon,” I say aloud, trying to quiet this unexpected and unwelcome dialogue I am having with myself.
Yet could it be true? At this point in my life, the tampons are symbolic rather than useful but symbols are important. They help find meaning for the mysteries of life. By getting rid of the remaining symbols of my young womanhood, would I be moving on to be a crone or would it make me into a hag?
I get a flashback to the time I got my first period. It was in my junior high English class. I felt the color drain from my face. I raised my hand frantically for the bathroom pass and as I left the room, I heard knowing giggles. I plunked my quarter into the vending machine and gratefully used the sanitary pad that slid out. There wasn’t anything as convenient as tampons then, only those big pads that never quite fit. Tampons made life so much easier.
Convenient or not, I had to admit that I didn’t miss them one itsy, bitsy bit this last year. I didn’t miss the cramps, either, or the headaches that came with menstruation. But do I miss that time of life? Would I want to be back there with its turmoil?
It isn’t a realistic question because I can’t go back even if I would choose to. And why should I, anyway, when I have more freedom now to explore life with fewer encumbrances?
I realize that what is holding me back is not nostalgia but the lack of closure. There was no ritual to help me move on. I decide to create my own, a rite of passage to honor my maturing from fecund female to menopausal wise woman.
I take the tampons out of the box and one by one drop them into the waiting basket. Each one bears a memory related to the girl I was, a tribute to the innocence I once had, or to the journey I have been traveling. Each receives a thank you for having accompanied me on my life’s path. And each takes with it an ache or a sigh that might hold me back from progressing. When the box is empty, I crumple it and add it to the pile with my appreciation for it’s facilitating this final release. Then I take my shower and wash away any remaining wistfulness.
I am a new woman, ready for the future.
Ferida Wolff has been exploring the terrain of the self for over thirty years. She has an MS in Education and holds a certificate in Holistic Studies. As a teacher of Hatha Yoga, she helped her students focus on and listen to their inner messages. She practices Qi Gong and Tai Chi and tends to look at the world from a variety of perspectives. She loves to travel and often brings the energy of the places she visits back into her writing. When in her early fifties, she discovered her inner "Swamp Woman" and has been enjoying the assertiveness of her midlife alter-ego. Her children were both recently married and she finds the role of mother-in-law fun. She is the author of 16 books for children as well as the adult book The Adventures of Swamp Woman: Menopause Essays on the Edge. She can be reached at email@example.com or through her website www.feridawolff.com.