Traveling Kids Segment
I promised myself that I would not shed a tear when I had to say goodbye. The worst was two years ago when I dropped you off in a littered, abandoned parking lot beneath a busy underpass in Worcester, Massachusetts. Everything was broken, rusted, devoid of life. It was just before sunset and I could not breathe. This was another trip when the heavy hand of dread pressed against my chest harder with each passing mile.
You looked at me apologetically and said it would be alright. Your partner was too busy fixing his pack to notice that I was dying in the front seat of my car. The dog was up for the next adventure, the next train ride, the next handful of food. Somehow I had to find a way to breathe and never do this again.
I couldn’t erase the vision of you reaching for me in your poufy, satin dress, with your new shiny patent leather shoes and perfect ringlets as I picked you up and carried you over a mud puddle. This earlier version of you is a memory, one that I must honor and not allow to haunt me.
The questions churned in my head like a sickening merry-go-round…what could I have done to prevent this? For the thousandth time I thought about keeping you as a prisoner.
I got out of the car and stood by weakly and watched you as the sun finally slipped behind some old, vacant factory buildings. I thought I might throw up. I hugged you so tightly that I’m certain we merged. I inhaled your scent, knowing that it would soon be replaced by road dirt and grime; stuff from boxcars. You held me longer than I expected. I had become accustomed to the definite need to separate, to figure out where you end and I begin. Woman, child, cellist, poet, dreamer, creative goddess, faerie… we share it all. I promised to see you as you and not an extension of me.
I let go. At least I think I did. But isn’t that somewhat impossible? I wanted to scream at you for allowing me to drown in fear. I wanted to scream at those who abandoned us, crossing generations. I wanted to scream at God for playing this trick on me. I thought that if I loved you hard enough, it would be okay in spite of our shared betrayals. Instead, I screamed at myself, inside of myself.
I dared to listen to Mozart on the way home, knowing that he would bring out more tears and help me to find an end to them. I thought that if I suffered intensely all at once that I would purge it and be done with it once and for all. It was just part of an illusion that I once constructed and have long forsaken.
After a three hour drive and emtpied of tears, I made the decision that I would never bring you to such a place again and I would never let you see me cry when you set forth on your next journey.
I know that you were surprised when after spending two weeks with me in Florida; I dropped you off at a highway exit in Tampa…you, your partner and the dog. This time I waved and smiled and honked the horn like I was leading the hometown 4th of July Parade. Your look of astonishment matched my own feeling of awe. I had finally risen to a level of acceptance and trusted God.
This was a significant lesson. Maryjane, how are you going to continue on this journey? Will you fall apart? Will you always think the worst? Or will you have faith, trust and practice unconditional love? Will you choose to be wise and grounded, setting an example? Or will you become weak and dispirited, not the strong woman you are and can be. I was awake. We would be okay. Better than that.
After I got on the highway the tears threatened, but more of a relief this time. I let a few escape but I decided that it was time to finally take this experience and give it to God.
You were better at keeping in touch, texting and calling on a more regular basis. I have become an expert at US Geography, running to the map every time there’s a shooting or a tornado striking near where you are living in a tent somewhere with your ever-changing band, waiting for the weather to clear so you can make a few bucks busking on the corner. I held my breath and texted you, telling you to find a safe place. You did. You assured me that you were on top of it. You were.
We spent time together last summer. Good time; meaningful time. We laughed and played music and cuddled and made promises to each other. I loved sitting with you on the bench by the river watching the red squirrels dash around in preparation for winter. I left you off at your partner’s house where I found myself comforting his mother and wiping away her tears, as both of her sons are traveling kids.
When we visited in New Orleans last winter, I trailed behind as you made your way down ‘your street’ in the French Quarter and everyone knew you by name. They knew you as the girl who not only played the banjo, but who also played Haydn and Bach and the rest of the boys, because you managed to scrounge up a cello. You didn’t want me to see where you lived, but you actually had a room in an apartment. I could exhale.
This time it was you who rode away, leaving me behind. I stood in the hotel parking lot and watched you ride away on your bicycle until you turned the corner and disappeared into the dirty, disheartened city still reeling in the shadows of Katrina.
It’s been a year since you’ve been home, since we sat on the front porch together wondering about the rustling sound in the woods and then dismissing it to praise the moon instead. Once you arrived in the Pacific Northwest, you started to have problems with your phone and I slipped into the mother’s imagination thing every time I tried to call and got the instant recording. Once again, I became a slave to my cell phone, taking it with me everywhere, checking for messages and missed calls. Then I remembered that you weren’t ever alone and that I had placed it in God’s hands. It helped.
After spending a great deal of time camping in the Redwood Forest, you had your cell phone fixed and you apologized for going off the radar. You told me that you would never be the same because of the redwoods. You sounded strong. I recognized you in your voice. I was reassured at the sense of you remembering who you were and from whence you came.
I pray for you every night, even though I know that God is with you. I ask that you are guided, protected, guarded and blessed. I stopped asking my father to watch over you quite some time ago. I no longer accept fear.
The excitement between us continued to build as we discussed your plans to take a Greyhound bus from San Francisco to home; the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I am counting the hours until midnight, when you will roll in. I have prepared your favorite foods, washed the flannel sheets with a hint of patchouli in the final rinse and hung them out on the line. Beatrix Bunny is plopped by the pillows.
I look forward to imprinting your essence and looking at you, brown eyes to brown eyes. A part of me longs to know of your journey; a part of me knows that it isn’t all for me to know.