Fly Away


babygirlsThe tiniest Uhaul trailer sat burdened with wedding gifts: china, crystal, platters and more candlesticks than a family could use in a lifetime. We had married, he had graduated from college, and we had been on our honeymoon. Now it was time to not just drive, but to move my whole life across the country, 1000 miles from my family that I loved so well that I needed so much. But I was young, so so young, and happy and a bright life lay out in front of me.

Sometimes, when I’m melancholy, or on holidays, or when my children reach certain milestones, I can picture my mother, standing next to our mailbox, growing ever distant in the rear view mirror, watching me leave.  My mother is famous in our family for prolonged waving; she walks guests to their cars and stands in the drive waving as they pull away. She walks behind her leaving children until we make the turn at the end of her street. She wants to see us for as long as she can, because the times we get together are precious and limited these days.

And let me tell you, swinging around the corner, away from her, from my dad, from the singular comfort of being among those who know me best and well, ain’t no picnic. It’s all so fraught with memory, nostalgia, joy, fear, peace and the fierce unknowning of days to come.

I was 22 before I understood that my mother was a full, true human, not just a mom—if ever there was such a thing. That she had dreams, ideas, opinions, experiences about which I knew nothing. And I was 44 when I learned the yanking ache of watching our babies fly. I knew what it was to drive away from my mom and dad, but I didn’t know what it was like to be her.

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I knew the day she was born that her life would be a continuous walking away. That all our efforts were to strengthen her wings and then to watch her take those steps out of the happy, comfortable nest we made for her.

A few weeks ago, we loaded up our girl (actually, with my parents) and a bag of her most vital possessions. The three of them planned to visit Taos and then to finish in Colorado, where her grandparents would leave her with her aunt and uncle for a month. I know. It’s a month. That’s not long, and she’s more than old enough for the adventure. No big deal, right?

When I saw her in the car, tears to ward off the fierce unknowing of her days to come, I was never more my mother, never more A mother, than at that moment. She was safe, the trip was a good idea, and she needed these experiences. My first heart solution was to pull her back to me, to gather her up in my arms and keep her with me. For ever and ever. But my mom let me; she gathered up her will and her courage and her fear and her worry and she watched me take those steps out of our nest, and I knew I had to do the same thing.

I closed the car door, wiped my eyes and waved goodbye.

The car pulled out of the drive way, and I stepped into the space where it had been. They made the short drive to the end of the road and I did what my mother would have done; I walked into the road and waved until the car slipped around the corner and out of my sight.

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