Orientation, Stop & Shop and ABBA
July 16, 2013
This morning I woke early after a fitful sleep. I readied myself to drive Phoebe, my firstborn baby to orientation at SUNY-New Paltz, where she will be a freshman in a few weeks. I was a bit angry with her for some immature behavior the night before and gave her a speech about it. Then we talked about what was going on at the camp where she is a counselor for the summer, we talked about her various friends and we listened to music.
This is an exciting time of life, a big transition. People ask me how do I deal with this? It is like dealing with Phoebe’s first birthday, her first day of school, her first dance. You grow into these things. They are bittersweet. Each of those events left me feeling a mix of pride and a bit of melancholy.
Today was not the day for me to be emotional. I am planning that for next month when we drive her to school to begin freshman year. When Mama and Daddy dropped me off at UNC-Greensboro in August of 1983 I sat in my half empty dorm room and cried for two hours. Mama cried all the way home from Greensboro to Fayetteville.
When Phoebe and I pulled into the parking lot she spied her friend Dylan with her mom and one of her sisters. I smiled. I was happy Phoebe had a buddy there. We parked and went to greet the family and I could barely speak. I muttered, “ I feel emotional.”
We got Phoebe settled with her orientation leader, we walked around the campus for a few minutes in the oppressive heat and we talked. I started to tear up again. Phoebe can tell. I can’t get words out. She tickled me. I think it was her way of not getting herself worked up.
It was time for me to leave as she had some orienting to get to. I got into the car and I called Rob. “All is well,” I told him, “I am going to fill the car with gas and be home in a couple of hours.”
“Can you stop at the grocery store while you have the car and get a couple of things?” he asked me. “Sure.”
I knew there was a good grocery store on the way to the Thruway. I walked into the Stop & Shop. I only needed to get some juice boxes for Finn’s camp and some salad for tonight’s dinner but I was in a very large grocery store. I pulled out a large shopping cart. I walked the aisles. I felt lost and alone and I thought about my mother. Then I thought about my grumbling belly and my small bladder. I also thought about the fact that whatever I bought I would have to carry from the garage into the house. I found a bathroom and some fresh fruit and some Glutino chocolate covered pretzels and the juice boxes and vegetables.
I drove a bit down the road and filled ‘er up with gas and merged onto the Thruway after cruising under the EZPass sign.
I had my iPhone connected to the sound system and I turned on the music. My music collection is a mix of pop and rock from the 70’s until now. If anyone knows me well they know I love to sing but I should only sing alone or with people who really love me or who are under the influence of mind-altering substances.
One of my favorite memories of college is driving in my little cream colored VW beatle, that I named Henry, between Greensboro and Fayetteville singing at the tops of my lungs. I had a cassette player and I would sing Lou Reed and Tears for Fears and Stevie Nicks for my ears only. I was so happy. And sometimes I would let an entire album loop through the two-hour drive. I remember trying to rewind to just the right spot to re-sing a song.
Things are different now. With the flick of a finger you can listen to exactly what you want, but being the old-fashioned girl that I am, I like to just listen to my songs on shuffle.
So, I am driving south on the New York Thruway earlier today and the ABBA song Chiquitita comes on and I don’t know why but I start to sing but instead I am balling my eyes out. Every time I try to sing I just cry harder and harder and then she sings: “What’s wrong? How I hate to see you like this. I can see that you are so sad and quiet.” I just sob and sob and make sure my eyes stay as clear as possible so that I can see the road.
And I think of Mama driving back and forth to see me at school. I think about being young and I think about growing older and how fleeting life is and I cry some more.
I don’t feel old. I think it is like the first day of school and I was fretting about how my Phoebe would fare. I think about how hard it was for Mama to let me go. And, I think about how much she wishes she was here. She was so mad that she was dying and was going to miss out on the party here. I think I cried because I couldn’t call her and talk about our shared experiences of letting go of our grown daughters, of mothering.
I will let you know how I do when I really have to let her go next month.