We took them to the airport early yesterday morning, each on a flight to the East Coast but leaving within twenty minutes of the other one. He’s going back for sophomore year, and she’s doing a freshman backpacking trip before orientation starts next weekend. The shopping’s done, the bags are packed. What Sarah didn’t take, my husband and I will carry when we go out help her check into her dorm.
We got back home at 6:30 a.m. Our favorite breakfast café wasn’t open yet, so we went to Peet’s and drank coffee for half an hour before going to eat scrambled eggs. Did you ever wonder why, when you arrive with friends at 8:30 or 9:00, all the bigger tables are taken by sole occupants? Now I know it’s because people set up camp between 7:00 and 7:30, and then they stay all morning. One woman brought in a briefcase and some shopping bags in a stroller (no baby in sight, however). She then proceeded to move a table to make give herself and her stroller more room. After ordering, she sat down and then got up, sat down, got up, circling the restaurant several times until she had collected extra napkins and arranged everything in her area just-so. Another regular customer came in and, since all the large tables were taken, he had to settle for a two-top. He drank his coffee while rocking and humming to the tunes in his portable CD player, sheet music spread out in front of him. I began to wonder if we were really in the suburbs after all.
But that was a momentary distraction. When I came back to the house, there was only my youngest child, his dad and me. And the dog, of course, who wanted his morning kibble. But this is it, the “new normal,” a household of three. Seems empty, quiet.
I wasn’t sure I felt like making dinner that evening.
So I took a nap, and then I went for a walk on the Baylands Trail. There were dozens of snails clinging to the dry grasses by the edge of the path. I couldn’t figure out why they hung on the dead stalks, when there were lush green plants, full of nutrients, only a few feet away. I wanted to warn the snails to move on. I wanted to tell them there was a better habitat just beyond their horizon, but that they should depart now, before they dried out like the plants to which they stuck so tightly.
And then it occurred to me that I’m like the snails. It’s easier to cling to the reed of my old life than it is to strike out and look for something different. But that aging stalk is drying out, withering away. The winter storms will level it, wash it away to make room for new growth. It’s time for me to get going, especially if I move as slowly as a snail. I can’t see the vista beyond me any better than the snails can. I just have to trust that I can arrive at a place where green plants push up from moist stream banks.
It’s time to start my slide.