The excitement, mixed with diesel fumes, coffee, morning breath, that peculiar tang of fourth grade bodies, and just a pinch of apprehension, was palpable in the rear parking lot at the school this morning. Fourth graders of all sizes and shapes, that odd nausea and exhaustion one feels when forced to get up extra early all forgotten as they raced around, buddying up, calling seats, their voices getting louder and louder as the time to shoulder onto the buses grows nearer. I thought about going back to the car, sitting and waiting to watch the buses fill, the doors close, the long, sleek vehicles glide smoothly away, bearing the class of 2021 to the windy city. I didn’t though, couldn’t, knew it was too early, I was too tired, it wouldn’t end well for the small stash of napkins in the glove box. The X trundled the few blocks home, the house quiet, the living room bright with early morning sun.
I’ve been thinking about a trip to Chicago, I believe it took place in seventh grade, that my dad chaperoned. How he got a little edgy surrounded by his overlarge group of girls. I wonder if he experienced some of the same feelings that day. Watching me walk off into the cavernous space of a museum, knowing how large it was, how far away I could be, how vast the possibilities for learning or doom.
Kaia has a note card in her purse. I had to write it down, because she can get a little chicken little-ish in a stressful situation. “If you are separated from your group…” and then a string of commonsense instructions. She asked only about two of them, “what’s a pay phone?” And, “why should I find a woman with children if I can’t find someone who works there, why not just anyone?”
Why indeed. Why because your mother said so. Because of a deep and perhaps over the top fear, a residual mistrust. Because of news stories, and pretty little girls who are vulnerable and the things that I know can happen to any girl, little or not, who is vulnerable, who seeks help or solace in the wrong face, the wrong place.
Why because the world has moved on, or at least our perception of it has, and the windy city doesn’t seem like the same place I visited all those years ago, after my own long bus ride.
This letting go, it started ten years ago, when a midwife also recognized the raw power and absolute safety present in a group of women and suggested we break my water because my mother and sister were with me right at that moment. Then the next day, and the next, to sitting up, crawling away, climbing stairs, walking and running. It is a constant, constant letting go. An awareness of her complete inability to know me as anyone but mom, her inability to realize her own small letting go acts, daily, invariable, completely normal.
Letting go can hurt, unless it’s something hot you picked up by mistake. Whether it’s watching a girl child, a changeling, grow out of her fairy ways and into bras and deodorant, algebra and hard questions; or a loved one slipping toward the end of life. It’s hard to confront only yourself looking back at you, hard sometimes to be a person apart, belonging, if only in small places, only to yourself. When you can’t hide behind a toddler, a kindergartner anymore and slowly revert to your own grown up self. All to easy to exist only as someone’s mother, someone’s wife or daughter.
This constant pull to give, give over my own preconceived notions, my own fear. Opening my hand and letting the harsh grains of self criticism, decade old hurts, minute old hurts, letting those blow away like sand on a summer day. Opening your heart is hard, letting go of the walls you build to protect yourself harder still. Knowing you are called not to fix the world, but to bear witness to it, in all it’s bloody awfulness, to care, to do your own small things in your own small corner that take just the smallest edge off a much larger hurt. Realizing that holding onto old thought processes simply because they’re what I’ve conditioned myself to think, chasing after who I should be or could be, it’s as useless and impossible as catching time in a bottle and stopping it up and storing it on a shelf. They aren’t called growing pains for nothing.
We visited my grandmother, and the grief of that visit was overwhelming. She laid on her bed and told us how she wished we could meet her dad, that she had thought he’d stop in that day and he’d like nice kids like us. She looked in a mirror and didn’t know herself, that old lady with white hair, she gasped, that isn’t me. She sang with us, some old favorite nursery songs. Playmate, come out and play with me…
And we’ve never spoken of it, but she didn’t know us. The same children she rocked and took for a week on summer vacations and sent to Fairway with a dollar to buy candy. Where do those memories live now? Not with her, now only I have them, a strange package that I’m not sure what to do with, where to store. It’s strange feeling to know someone has completely forgotten you yet holds your hand, lets you kiss her cheek.
Letting go. Lacher. Dejar ir.
A green eyed girl, almost eye level with me, in red T shirt and a pink sweater from a Granny who misses her and who I now understand, is also learning about the constant of letting go. A quick sideways hug, a kiss blown, not even pausing to see if it was caught or returned. See how quickly she disappears?
“Because she did not look behind, September did not see the smoky-glass casket close itself primly up again. She did not see it bend in half until it cracked, and Death hop up again, quite well, quite awake, and quite small once more. She certainly did not see Death stand on her tiptoes and blow a kiss after her, a kiss that rushed through all the frosted leaves of the autumnal forest, but could not quite catch a child running as fast as she could. As all mothers know, children travel faster than kisses. The speed of kisses is, in fact, what Doctor Fallow would call a cosmic constant. The speed of children has no limits.”