Girlfren and her daughter left yesterday afternoon, back to California. She gave me permission to use her name. Her name is Jean, and as I said we’ve been super close friends since age 12 in Hawaii. It’s been a fabulous distraction having them here, while we should be packing, organizing, and all. Beach, chocolate facials, parties, road trips, baths, craziness…
When the taxi arrived – yes, it became clear that this is one of those moments when it’s best not to drive them to the airport – things started to hit, emotionally speaking. I hugged Jean. We looked deeply into each others eyes – eyes that I’ve known for decades, eyes that have laughed and cried with me, gone through love and adventure, loss and hope. No matter where we’ve each been in our lives, we’ve always stayed connected. We will now, too. Yet for the first time in a long time, we don’t know exactly when we’ll see each other again.
All of the leaving started hitting me, as I looked into Jean’s sweet, familiar, summer sky eyes. Our cranky-on-the-outside, heart-of-gold-on-the-inside Bostonian lady neighbor happened to be outside to witness the tear fest, and she threw her arms into the air, shouting, “Oh God! It’s just the beginning, see? All the good-byes, just getting started! You see what you done? You comin’ still, tomorrow, for dinner with your girls?” (LOVE this neighbor lady – she’s always shaking her head at me and complaining about something, yet she admits she’ll miss us, and knows we’ll miss her too. We bonded while trying to shovel our way out of several blizzards this past winter when the plow people didn’t show up. She taught me that you need to put up your windshield wipers before the blizzard freezes them onto your window. Will always be grateful for that.)
Well, this last couple of days is about tears, it seems, in addition to running out of time for everything. Right now as I just wrote the previous sentence, my 5 pm phone call came. I was tempted not to answer for a moment, since I have so little time. But it’s Randy, my autistic cousin. My cousin’s son, the family that we lived with for part of the year last year after a series of felonies in our previous neighborhood upset me to the point of wanting to leave asap. My cousin and her family took us in, in a heartbeat. I had the privilege of getting to know Randy a lot better. One of his rituals while we lived at their house, was to come up to our studio space above their garage, first thing in the morning. He would walk by the 4 of us in assorted phases of sleep or awakening, lean close into our faces and say in his completely sweet and innocent, and rather loud, voice, “GOOD MORNING, COUSIN CHERYL!” (wave in my face). “GOOD MORNING COUSIN SOFIA..GOOD MORNING COUSIN MICHELLE..GOOD MORNING COUSIN M” (Big wave to each of us). Then he would walk – exactly twice – around my Mom’s coconut table that we had hauled with us (yes, same table we just vanned up to Auntie’s house!), and go back downstairs. Usually leaving us speechless.
Anyway, Randy doesn’t receive a lot of phone calls from friends. He has his own phone. He is allowed to call a certain core group of people that have agreed to accept his call. He calls me on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at 5 pm. Exactly. Every week. For years now. Once in a while I can’t answer, and on the next call, he’ll say, “You couldn’t call me back. You’re sorry. You apologize.” I say, “Yes, that’s right, Randy, I couldn’t call you back, and I am sorry. And I’m here now.”
But it’s confusing for him to understand that starting Friday, he can’t call for a few weeks, until we figure out our phone system, until we know our new number. He’s confused that I can’t give him an exact new address yet (we have to get a po box, the farm doesn’t receive mail). So right now when he called, I stopped writing and took the time to answer.
“Tomorrow last time I call you for now..for a little while?…for how long?” Randy asked, trying to get a concrete sense of our departure and when we will be in touch again. “For a little while, Randy, just a little while. Then you can call again. I’ll miss you.” “I’ll miss you!” Randy mimicked, in a happy voice. God, how I’ll miss him. And his Mommy and Papa, my cousins. Tears.
I took Sofia last night after Jean and her daughter left, to our final Play Date at one of the special friend’s house that we had become close to. It’s especially special, because Sofia loves the daughter, and I love the Mommy, and if necessary, when Michelle comes too, they all love Michelle. But I asked Hubby to watch Michelle last nite so the two girls, and two Moms, could share special time together.
You know what’s incredible? Aside from the 5 year old girls having total drama breakdowns, screaming that they didn’t want to be separated when we said it was time to say good-bye..that we are moving to a farm but she can visit us anytime..what’s incredible, is how careful the Mom and I have been until the last couple mos since I told her we were leaving..how much we have recently confessed to each other, about our lives, our pasts, our dreams, our hopes, our fears…really now connecting. But kind of because we know that we won’t be in the same circle of friends. Our recent confession sessions gave me a glimpse of how careful everyone is, to not just say what IS. We all have something sordid in our past, or creepy parent or abuse or bad thing, or shame thing..but the more we hide it, the ickier it gets. In the new climate of “community” in USA, the external culture seems to be a Stepford Wife kind of thing : How perfect everything is; how it’s FINE that the hubby is usually gone all week long for business, to work far away so that we can all afford to live well.
Anyway, Mommy Friend and I confessed, cried, shared, went way overtime on the Play Date, so by the time I hauled Sofia like a sack of wilted Mermaid to the rental van, everyone was crying, laughing, promising future visits, confessions, forever friendships…There’s nothing more intense than watching two exhausted five year old girls in Mermaid outfits flinging themselves at each other, screaming, “Don’t GO!!” “I want to stay and play more Mermaidddd!” Emotionally wrenching. And adorable.
Now: Since I answered my 5 pm Cousin Randy phone call, the girls and I had a dinner date across the hall w our “cranky-Boston-heart-of-gold” neighbor lady, first time we’ve ever been to her house. But also, just now, tonight: After tears, confessions, talk, time…we agreed: Where you been all this year, huh? Why didn’t we have dinner, or tea or anything except shoveling the walkway and complaining about parking until tonight?
Community matters. Connection matters. But our experience (and us, too, our bad) has been lately, that you are careful, don’t say too much, don’t talk in a “get real, personal” kind of way, don’t confess, don’t tear up over a hard time. Keep secrets. Keep the electronics on full volume, so no one has to have an intimate conversation. Hope your kid isn’t the one shooting the gun; hope your kid isn’t the one being aimed at. Close your eyes tight, keep quiet, and hope. It’s not a recipe that fosters very close community. And it doesn’t work very well for my family and me. I wish I’d hung out with “cranky-heart-of-gold” neighbor lady before, she’s awesome. She played ball with the girls, didn’t freak when Michelle ran her cheek into her table edge, understood when meltdowns started and we hugged a quick good-night.
So today, I have cried several times. So has Sofia and Michelle. We’ve laughed a lot. We’ve wasted time. We’ve used time well, getting to know our neighbor better, accepting phone calls that I might have otherwise let go to voice mail. Answering some emails. Writing here. Writing to others that feel important to me….Tears…time..confessions..some packing:) It’s getting closer. No regrets, but yes, tears. And to all, I wish everyone peace, love, happiness, health, safety, goodness. And truly, I mean everyone. xoxo