Staring out my office window a week ago, the last sweet peas still arched towards the sun, a late yellow rose had put out a new bloom, but now that is behind us for months to come. The snow has arrived.
I tend to do more fall cleaning then spring cleaning – getting ready for time spent inside during the cold, and so came across a little journal I kept while my youngest daughter and I travelled together for a few weeks. As much as parents like me, who managed busy households, dreaded all the kids moving out, this little journal reminds me of some of the best times with those young adult children.
My daughter Lily, was just eighteen and almost a year out of highschool. It was her ‘gap year’. Lily had travelled solo back to Italy where she had done a language immersion program in high school. Her dad was nervous about her traveling on her own, so when she suggested maybe Mom could meet her over there for ten days or so, it was an easy sell. We both thought we should meet in Paris and then travel to the South of France. Just the phrase, ‘the south of France’ stirred our dreamy souls. After a few exotic lazy days on the beaches near Antibes we took a train to see Milan, after which I was to return home and she was resuming her trip by meeting friends in Barcelona.
This was the journal entry I came across on the chilly November day, written on a warmer day several years ago in May –
“We’d arranged a taxi to pick Lily up at the hotel at 5:30 am this morning and bring her to the bus station. From there she will shuttle to the airport for her flight to rejoin her young friends in Barcelona. If she was anxious to get back to the freedom of being on her own, she never let on.
It made me happy to buy her a pretty summer dress and she wore it in the street of Grasse and Antibes, but she put on her black jeans and a t-shirt to travel. I watched her gather her things from the hotel room and thought about what a sweet time we had together, sitting above Paris on the steps of the Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre – Lily describing the type of man she might like to marry, or lying on the beach in Côte d’Azar, trying to pretend we belonged there. We had joked that perhaps we would have a spiritual experience when we went to see Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper and then afterwards whispered in the sunny square of the basilica that of course, we had been moved by the majesty of the work. That was just before a priest clucked his tongue at the hem of Lily’s dress, indicating it exposed too much of her legs – after we agreed that he had taken a long look at their God created beauty.”
I finished that journal entry by saying, “Lily and I have made memories to share to keep me happier when she goes off to university in September, and for other times, years from now. Lily knew she was running late this morning but let me go back for three more hugs and French ‘cheek kisses’. I didn’t think I’d go back to sleep after climbing the stairs back to our small room but slid in between the sheets of the bed she’d occupied, where the balcony door was open to the breeze, and I fell into dreaming. When I have trouble sleeping with all of them gone off, I’ll try to remember the meals I shared with my youngest daughter, the sunsets that fell over our evenings, the fashions we clamored about in Milan, the late night conversations we whispered across our pillows – so that when the house is empty, with her and her siblings all living away, I’ll be able to bring it all back to mind.”