This is for my daughter to who took a Lyft to the ferry – and the ferry to San Francisco and walked 15 minutes in the cold morning air to get to her job in the city today.
For the way I just wrote out the word San Francisco, instead of SF – like I have done for the past 38-years – as if this place has become, after all these years of living in the Bay Area, more significant since someone I love more than anyone – except her little sister – now resides there.
How yesterday I stood at the corner of California and Fillmore and I knew where I was. I had passed through that intersection many times, but today I was anchored by blood, felt an urgent sense of place, how I calculated from where I stood, where my daughter’s apartment was, which streets I would take to get to her. How fast I could be there in an earthquake.
For my car which is loaded with the last of her things – the mattress and all of her toiletries, the pillows and the blankets, and how I just went upstairs to see what her room looks like without her. For the white go-go boots with silver studs that she left on on the floor – the ones she had to have two summers ago, and the pale pink sheets she tossed lazily on the bed – for the way the morning light hit the sheets in such a dreamy way that I had to run up there with my camera to capture the light, as if I could capture her one more moment.
People say ‘good luck with the empty nest,’ but she left 6 years ago and I’ve said many goodbyes, driven her to Colorado and back many times, helped her move in and out of her Seattle apartments. This time she was only back for five months, and I think this lump I feel has something to do with the way I cared for her – the way she cared for me – the morning coffee, the turmeric ginger milk before bed. The way she’d say goodnight and hit the light. The sound of her feet on the stairs.
How sometimes in our five months together, in the beginning, she slept with me and how much we loved that – two grown women in a queen sized bed. We knew we shouldn’t. It must be wrong, we were too old for this, surely she belonged in her own room – the little princess and the queen – the way we told each other story slices until we fell asleep.
Last night in the kitchen she turned to me and said, “Hug?” because she knew I’d had a difficult conversation with my boyfriend, a Facetime call where he kept interrupting me, saying, “I know, I know,” and how I stopped him and said, even though you know, please give me an opportunity to finish my sentence, and he rolled his head back and closed his eyes. The call was a disaster and I walked into the kitchen to find her.
“Hug?” she said in the kitchen after the call she promised she had not heard, and I let my body fall a little more heavily into hers as she said the thing I’ve said to her many times, “Everything is alright,” she whispered. “Everything is just fine.”
Me and this grown child, and the dizzy business of living, and my schedule, that from 8-12 I teach, and from 1-2 I get to the gym, and don’t forget the post office and remember to get some fresh air, even if it’s at the bottom of my list.
And in the midst of all of this I make sure to send her off with an extra roll of toilet paper because she and her friend move in today, and they’re working girls and when they get home it will be dark. How before I headed for the bridge to get her these last things, I ran around the house thinking, “milk, she might need milk, or kitchen cloths, or an extra pillow,” and how I had to stop myself, “stop it, crazy,” I said. “Stop it.”
It was the caring for her that guts me the most. The making sure the house was warm, the coffee, a smoothie to take to work, the way she’d come downstairs and have me weigh in on her outfits and which shoes looked best with which pants. How at the end of the day, I’d stand at the bathroom door, listening to her tell me about how things went as she washed her face.
“Stay,” she’d sometimes say if she could tell I was antsy, moving onto the next thing. “Stay,” she’d say, if she saw me calculating how much time was left in the day.
For how easy it was to take a breath and to let my shoulders fall, to face her. For the way she kept asking me to stay.
Would you like to start a daily writing practice in your own home? With 27 Wilder Days, I’m bringing the Wild Writing practice to you through a series of short videos that will arrive in your inbox each day for 27 days. In each video I will share some delicious aspect of the practice that has served me for the last 25 years, as well as read you a poem and give you a jump off line to get you started.