Home is where the heart is. Home is where they have to take you. Home is...well, you've heard them all.
Liv and I are listening to an audio book of Laura Ingalls Wilder's "These Happy Golden Years" in the car. Much is made of what it feels like to be homesick but also what it feels like to fly free, away from those home fires. We've talked a lot about this. In the book, the main character, Laura, goes off to teach school and is away for the first time. She is homesick but manages when Almanzo, her future spouse, sleighs her home every weekend. And then, as soon as she is home, bit by bit, she starts preparing to leave, to go off and make a home with him.
It's the way of the world.
When I was little, I couldn't imagine a world without my Da, my Mother and my sisters all around me. I didn't WANT to imagine one. They were everything to me, my whole universe, my center, my happiness, my joy, my rest. And then I was a teenager and started to feel those stirrings. I wanted to leave, was ready to go forth but also a little scared. During my freshman and sophomore years in college, I came home home often at first and then, as I adjusted to my life away, less and less...until by my junior year when I rarely came home except for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas and then home felt a little odd to me, as if I didn't quite belong in that room at the top of the stairs whose windows looked out into the woods.
By the time that I graduated college, I was well off into my own life, not with a man, but just...on my own. I moved out of state to go to med school and then further out for my internship. When I was 24, I fell in love with a woman and my Mother disowned me, but it wasn't as traumatic as it could've been. By that time, I visited home maybe once a year. Maybe.
I had found my wings.
So, Liv and I talked about this.
"I just can't imagine a life without you and Bing," Liv tells me.
I smile at her. It's a sad smile, though. Because now I know what I didn't know as a college girl. It's much, much harder for the parent than for the child, I think. This goodbye to home. The child's life moves forward, but ours stays the same, just minus a big chunk that used to be there.
I can hardly bear to think of Liv not living with us, but I am already bracing myself. She is already taking those baby steps away. Her life no longer revolves around our board games together, family movie nights, dinners. Her life always curves back to touch us, but now it is headed out with her friends. Soon she will have her learner's permit and then she will be driving.
Then, on to college. And it's a big world out there. I wonder what path she will find? Will she settle down near us? (I secretly pine for that although, in my heart, I want what is best for her and I believe that this will be far from us.) Will she become a world traveler for her career? Or marry young and start a family? Marry and wait to have children until her biological clock starts screaming at her? Mine didn't scream until I was nearly 40! Or maybe hers won't scream at all. Bing says that she has never, ever wanted to birth a child. That she adores Liv, loves her mightily, but would never have sought out a child if she hadn't came with me.
I look at my daughter's myriad of talents and wonder where they will take her. She used to want to be a mathematician. Now, no. I don't think math holds much joy for her anymore. String theory held her tight for several years. Now, she is looking at environmental science. Maybe she will teach like I always wanted. Probably not, though. Living with a teacher for a parent has made her very aware of the beaten down look that all teachers get around April every year. And she knows that the pay is paltry, so she'd better love it, as Bing does. Maybe a doctor? No. I don't think so. She says she feels no pull towards that. Tinton, her Father, tells me that although she seems interested in his geological digs, she doesn't have a deep interest in rocks, geology that he had/has.
I suspect she will surprise us. She usually does.
I just hope the surprise isn't something like an unplanned pregnancy at 18 or a dive into drugs. I have been honest with her about my struggles with addiction. Told her that I was born to be an addict and fight it all the time. That I might have handed down this tendency to her. She listens, I think. But, I don't know. I know less and less of her thought process as she ages. I used to know exactly what was going on in that golden haired head of hers. Now? Not so much.
But, I know that even though she can't imagine a life without Bing and I or her Father, that one day, she will invent her own life and we will be on the periphery of it. Hopefully, she will stay close. My Mother chose to end our life together when I was 24 and I will never know if she ever missed me. I suspect not. My Mother wasn't a wallowing sort of person. But, me? I can't imagine shutting Liv out of my life for any reason. I couldn't bear to push her away. It just dumbfounds me that my own Mother was able to shut me out so easily. She cut those ties and kept them cut. She told me that unless I stopped being a deviant and confessed to a priest, I was not welcome to walk into her house again. I did walk into her house again, but I was 35 years old and she was dying of breast cancer. I came because she asked for me. And when she saw that I was not penitent and not apologizing, she closed her eyes to me and I was not invited back.
I would die before I would do that to Liv. Liv is disgusted by what my Mother, her grandmother did to me and is verbal about it. I try to explain, tell her how devoutly religious she was, how bound to Catholicism, her church. Liv has none of it.
"You were her daughter," she says. "What she did sucked big time."
Well, yes it did. But, I have forgiven, moved on. It was either do that or drown myself in whiskey. I wisely chose the former.
I think about all the Mothers out there, though, who are like me. Mothers who had babies and held them in their laps, their arms and thought to themselves that this was the biggest love that they had ever experienced. Mothers who held on to tiny fingers as those babies learned to walk, became toddlers, helped them hold their sippy cups and then drove them to school, knees shaking with worry that their baby wouldn't fit it, would be hurt by others. And breathed easy when all was okay. Helped with homework, grounded them for not cleaning their rooms. Found a condom in their wastebasket. A joint in a drawer. A diary. A journal. A blog.
And then...let go. Not knowing how in the world they would do it, they just...bent their heads and did it.
I will join that rank sooner than later.
And I am a little astonished that the time has gone so fast. Even though, admittedly, there were days when Liv was 5 and bugging me to get all the finger paints out on a hot August afternoon, when I felt like the days were endless and I was just so fucking tired.
But, now...here we are. I have a teenager in the house. A teenager with big opinions that don't always jive with mine. I was amazed at how hotly she and I could argue about Edward Snowden. How my liberal Democratic beliefs have collided with her, albeit, Democratic, but far less to the left beliefs than mine. And where did her fashion taste come from? She is far too loosey goosey with those clothes than I like.
I sometimes think about that little seven year old child who wanted to be exactly like me when she grew up. Now, she works very hard to be different than me. She strives to find her footing and hold it. This child who used to think that spending an evening sitting outside with me, listening to the crickets and catching lightning bugs was about as perfect as life could be. Now, she sits with me, with us, sometimes, but frankly, it is usually because she has nothing better to do.
She's moving away from me, preparing herself to fly, even though she keeps looking back to make sure that I am still here.
One day, she won't look back. She will call and check up on me, she will love seeing me ( I hope!) and she will talk to her children about how their grandma used to do the chicken dance every Thanksgiving or read Harry Potter books to her every night. She might share with them that one Summer when she was six, their grandma spent a whole two months writing notes in French to her and pretending to be a fairy who lived behind the garage and wanted to converse just with her, how she'd find the note under that rock every few days and come flying in the house to sit with grandma and translate it into English and sit saucer eyed with excitement as we read it together.
But, she will be on to her life. And I will sit back in mine and watch, smiling, but aching a little. Like all Mothers, well....thinking of my own Mother here...MOST Mothers.
Life is fluid and it just keeps moving. Sometimes WAY too fast. But, no...I wouldn't stop it or change it or try to hold Liv back. I want her to seek it out.
I just hope she remembers to stop back home once in a while to sit across a table from me and let me watch her break into that jack o lantern smile that I love more than anything....