I'm going to be all sorts of helpful tonight. First of all, if you feel as if your life is isn't great, update your Apple IOS system. I tell you, the 48 hours of intermittent grey screen and weird extra-planetary messages from your previously compliant work friend will put the rest of your life in perspective. But I'm back now and yes, there is something weird where the number 5 keeps showing up in words and sometimes the computer tries to set itself on fire, but I now have perspective and know how much worse it could be.
Speaking of perspective, I realized I never told you all about the actual day we put the kid on the plane. Specifically, the last few hours, when I was weirdly serene. This was good because the kid had been very clear with her parents about what we were allowed to express. One of us was allowed to be emotional and we knew which parent that was. Daniel is the hugger and I....well, my mother's people are Midwestern German Catholic farm stock and I'll leave it at that. To live with me is to learn the very fine gradations between the "bored stare," the "politely horrified stare" and "you just took my tomatillo salsa" stare.
(That last one is murderous rage.)
So, we're winding down the final few hours and we're running around and doing errands and maybe we've already been to CVS three times because she keeps remembering CVS sorts of objects. And then there are suddenly a flurry of texts between the kid and several of the kids from the program, people she's been texting with for weeks, and she's all excited because they're going to have lunch together. And I open my mouth to say, "Uh, you're about to have a year with these people. You will not see your parents for months. Maybe you can watch your mother decimate a bowl of tomatillo salsa one more time as she imparts a bit more hard-earned life wisdom?"
But this was insane, partially because we had been given the pleasure of over seventeen years of meals with her and partially because I have no life wisdom to impart. I mean, she had already heard my "Don't take a mint from the open bowl at restaurants" nugget but, honestly, I believe she was already there. Better to let her have a pleasant meal with friends, enjoy our trip to the airport together, be Midwestern about the whole thing. We took her to the mall in Boston where her new classmates were eating. She went to her restaurant, we went to Eataly. Daniel found various bits of food which pleased him. I got a soda because I suddenly had no appetite. We paid and sat at a table. Daniel ate and I thought.
"This is it," my brain calmly informed me, 'This is the rest of your life. The two of you eat together and she's off leading her life elsewhere. First in another restaurant, then in another country. And yes, she loves you two very much but, let's be honest, you will become increasingly peripheral to her life. She'll come to visit you in your small condo in a warm state which will mystifyingly smell of stew and she'll tell you a few anecdotes from her life, but you will never know her as well as you do right now. And when she leaves your stew-condo, she'll think of it as 'Going back to her life.' Because you will be as much of an artifact as an appendix. And then she'll come take your car keys."
I couldn't swallow my overpriced soda. To my horror, I felt heat in my eyes. I was going to cry? Here? In Boston, in Eataly? I let out a small hiccuping noise. Daniel looked up from his broccolini, concerned.
"You okay?" he asked softly, reaching out to touch my hand.
I knew only three things at that moment. I would never get that particular kind of soda again, the retirement condo would smell of stew and if he touched me, I would burst into tears in a violent way. I flung myself from the table, giving the international waving symbol for "I'm not okay but neither do I want company, continue to eat your broccolini." I raced out of the restaurant, into the mall and put every bit of emotional energy I had into not-crying and finding a place to not-cry. And there, like a beckoning, beautiful, shallow angel, I saw it:
I hurtled into the giant makeup store and triaged my problems. My first problem was my daughter was about to leave and...nope, that problem was not my first problem, because that was an inside problem and I can lock my feelings away into a very small, very dark, very ignored box in the very back of my brain.
(See: Midwestern German Catholic ancestry.)
No, my first problem was until I got my feelings locked away, they were becoming outside problems. My eyes were threatening to leak without cease and with that would go my makeup and my face would puff up and I'd look like a tired water balloon. Well, my first first problem was I had careened into a makeup store, my face was beet-red, and my index fingers were wedged under my eyes to keep the mascara from running. Seven women in the middle of makeovers were staring at me. One women halfway through a nighttime makeup looked at me and said "Honey, are you okay?"
The love of my life, the father of my child, asked me and I could hold it together. A stranger with half a strip of false eyelashes on asked me and here was my response:
"In (sobsob) three hours (gasp gasp) my daughter (indexfingerindexfinger) goes...to...FranceGWHAHEEWAAHEEENAAAA!"
The last bit was mostly just mucus.
Her makeup artist solemnly offered me tissues. The rest of the women stared at me in sympathy. One makeup artist took advantage of the break in the work to softly remind her client to blot her lips. The women who had asked me if I was okay smiled sympathetically.
"Oh yeah. I've been there. My daughters are both at college. You'll be fine. France? How lucky for her. How well does she speak French?"
I don't know what your angels look like. Mine have a smokey eye and a peachy nude lip. Five minutes of meaningless chatter and I could breathe again. Two minutes after that and I was walking down the Sephora aisle, looking for a foundation sample with heavy enough to neutralize my red, moon-shaped face.
(Yves Saint Laurent. France might be causing me pain but oh, one of their men saved my butt.)
I walked out of Sephora, towards Eataly. Daniel was walking out wearing the mildly terrified expression most heterosexual men wear when a women near them might be about to cry.
"You okay?" he repeated.
I thought about it. My heart hurt. She was going to live her life. It would not be my life. But that isn't a tragedy. That's a job accomplished.
"I'll be okay," I answered, and then I pulled out the spiffy new waterproof mascara I had just bought to make sure I looked my best to send my daughter off.