My youngest daughter visited for her week-long fall break. I hadn’t seen her since I put her on a plane at JFK in August. I told her I would wait at the airport until she texted me and said “at gate.” I watched her go through security, holding my shit together so she wouldn’t see me cry–I knew it was hard for her to go. As soon as she was out of sight, I sat down between two strangers and burst into tears. I mean, I was heaving. I thought I might be making them uncomfortable so I went into the bathroom, leaned against the wall and just kept crying. Then I cried in the taxi back to Manhattan and I cried on the train the whole way back to Providence, where I’d left my car so I could drive home to an empty house in Vermont. I couldn’t listen to sad songs on the radio for a week.
It’s been hard developing my post-mommy muscles these last couple of months. I’ve had to learn a new way of being in the world. I’ve realized how little I eat when I’m alone, for example, how little I need each day in general, how regulated and ordered and small my life has become. I drink my coffee and walk my dog and do my work and occasionally do this or that other thing. I wonder if I’ve made my daily life so predictable because I’ve experienced what felt like insurmountable chaos and have learned to count on nothing. That’s why counting on coffee and walks and work is important for me.
And so, with my child coming, I wondered how that would shift. It’s different than maybe what my friends at home are experiencing, because their kids are folded back into the known. But my daughter was coming to the unknown. How would it be?
My daughter and I have traveled a lot together and we lived in Ljubljana, just the two of us (and Beesly) a couple of years ago. We were reminded of encountering a new culture and how hard and wonderful it is at the same time. All week we commented on how this town and Ljubljana are so completely different–but many feelings about being abroad are the same. Mostly we remembered the feelings of isolation, of feeling alone even though we were together.
Sharing those memories of the deep loneliness we both felt in a foreign culture, made us realize the difference of today. Today we are two individuals, navigating separate worlds and then coming together. And so we can share our stories now and not feel the communal weight of something that seemed beyond our ability at the time to break through and shift.
I ate more and drank more water last week–and climbed steeper hills. I was with someone who is a part of the fabric of who I am and it was wonderful to experience a deeper level of communication with her. What struck me the most, and I’m sure my friends at home are experiencing this, is that my child is an adult now.
It was amazing to behold.