Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wherever She Goes

I put her on a train this morning. She stood in line with other travelers headed to Penn Station, many men in suits, a few college kids with heavy backpacks, one mom with a toddler and a bag overflowing with diapers and juice boxes. In the midst of generic humanity stood my girl. My tall, confident, soon to be out of my household girl.

This year I have been hyper aware of every goodbye I say to her. I can almost physically feel her slowly peeling away from my care, hear the scratchy sound as our velcro disconnects. After researching many far away schools she finally settled on a college that is nearby. I will (hopefully) still see her at least once a week, when she comes home to do laundry and borrow groceries from our cupboards. But it won’t be the same.

We will suddenly lose the impromptu conversations that pop up when you aren’t looking. Like last night, when her father and I were literally about to drift off to sleep and she got home from work, popping her head into our room to say good nights. She was wide awake, having had a nap before her shift at work, and as the goodnights moved into other conversations, suddenly our girl was spread out across the bottom of our king sized bed, freely sharing and laughing with her usually out of touch, irrelevant parents.

I didn’t have to look sideways to know my husband, like me, was soaking up the easy relaxed way she seemed to be content in our presence. She tends to be guarded with her feelings, especially with dad, as he gets too easily grouped into the lump of ‘boys’ along with her brothers, people she doesn’t understand most of the time and doesn’t seem to care to. I wasn’t the only one taking in every magical moment on such an ordinary night.

Before she separated her now tired body from our soft, down comforter we had come upon an exciting plan. Hubby had work down in NYC today and had a hotel room in Times Square. Daughter had no pressing assignments at school and no work until Thursday night. And Daughter loves to be in the City. She is willing to do anything to spend time in the City. Even if it means 24 hours alone with boring dad.

I don’t know who slept less, giddy with excitement, my husband or my daughter. She stumbled upon an accidental trip and he had secured some treasured time with a daughter who needs just a bit more fun time with dad to see how truly great he is. I couldn’t help but be excited too.

So this morning I sent her off. He went down early, to get some meetings out of the way, and I drove her down to the train station mid morning. We waited forever, as we always do, for the train coming in from Buffalo. Something about the mist of Niagara Falls must make that train late every time. I gave the hugs and last bit of safety advice (“I know, mom!”) and she was off to find her way alone.

As I stood on the platform waiting for the train to depart I couldn’t be worried. This is a child who navigated several small airports in Brazil, by herself, not speaking a word of Portuguese, when she was thirteen. I had no idea she’d be in that position until she returned home from the trip. But she did it, and she did it successfully, so she and I both came away from the experience confident in her abilities.

This is a child who is not afraid of the world or how to find her way. She knows how to ask for directions and read a subway map sign. She has a debit card with money on it. She has a cell phone, for heaven’s sake, and instant contact with her dad and I if she needs it. But she probably won’t.

Because it’s that time of life for her. Time to see what she wants to see and discover her own skills. Jumping on an Amtrak train for a leisurely two hour ride down to the City is nothin’ to this kid. Just a chance to play hooky for a day, read her magazine and listen to her ipod. Then she’ll get off the train, find her way up to Times Square and browse to her heart’s content until dad meets up with her in the late afternoon.

I got to spend my day in the City with hubby last week. This week it’s her turn.

Time to make memories with this dad who will come to mean more to her the farther she moves away from him. But for today, tonight, and tomorrow they will make some new, much needed fun memories. Maybe they will come closer to being friends.

The kind of friend you become with your parents once you have some space away from them. That’s what next year will be about for her. Finding her space.

And realizing that no matter how many trains I put her on that take her away from me, I will always be there waiting on the platform for the day she comes back.


Terry said...

I had to literally blink back tears to read this piece. It so resonates with me. You know that. You are so lucky she will be close to home but I know that things are changing. It is so disconcerting.

What a wonderful weekend they will have. And you will get to hear all about it.

My heart aches for you and for me. It is the time of their lives and I have to find it in myself to not be so darn selfish.

You sound so unselfish. Again,my hero!

jennifer said...

Simply beautiful. With 3 teenagers, I completely relate.
Love your line about hearing the scratchy sound as the velco peels away.