They are gone, all three of them in tight coach seats, heading into the western sunset toward Seattle. My eldest daughter Caroline, her Charlie Bean and Lulu and I spent our last hot, sweaty day fraught with drama and sibling rivalry. Caroline and I shared intermittent and ever brief adult exchanges that I know the children see as interruptions to their running conversations with their mom that consist of entreaties for acknowledgment of every activity they undertake, each thought that runs through their head and each sight they see from the car window. Is it a mom's 'Yes, I see,' that makes these moments real? Has it always been thus with young children?
After two weeks, my ears ache from the pitch of their screams, my mind is frazzled from their demands for 'more' and the capricious 'no' they give as first response, even to things they want. I had three meltdowns in two weeks, going to bed at suppertime and awakening twelve hours later with renewed spirit. I know Caroline is exhausted all the time. She answers each and every entreaty and she sleeps with them and their dreams and sweatiness. Never even an uninterrupted slumber for her.
How does one both go nuts and feel great love at the very same time? When Charlie smiles and exults over an ordinary task well done, I am engulfed with tenderness and tears. When Lulu paints her face with a half dozen colors and smiles with accomplishment, I am, again, overcome.
I returned from the airport and immediately set about clearing my kitchen counter tops of cereal boxes and stickiness. I scrubbed food stains around the burners on the stove. What was this spate of cleaning? Well, I wanted to regain order and I also wanted to keep from crying. That's what I know. They are gone.
I told Caroline on the way to the airport that, not only was I going to get my car washed and vacuumed, but I will get it detailed. Totally. My car looks as if we'd been living in it for two weeks. And we have.
Earl wanted to know where the ice cream was in the freezer and I pulled out both drawers, found the ice cream and then began to toss out frozen foods with freezer burn, frozen food that I decided I'd never thaw and eat. Out with it all. I filled a trash bag.
What is it about cleaning and clearing that lessens the pain of leave taking? I remember hearing grandmothers and great aunts say that they set about scrubbing floors after folks died or left. Focus on cleaning and clearing and the sadness of separation works itself out.
And now, by the way, I am missing my second daughter Jeanne and her Kelan and Lauren. I am a wreak. What is it about these little children and their moms?