There are two things about the whole experience of bringing Katie into this world that I remember vividly: I didn't think the labor would ever end, and for some reason the physical pain, oddly enough, never elicited a tear. The tears started after she was finally placed in my arms. I vividly remember that I didn't want to let go and she nearly had to be pried from my arms for silly stuff like photos and something about counting her fingers and toes.
I remember looking at this tiny creature weighing slightly over 6 lbs. and wondering how in the world I was lucky enough to get in on this gig?
Late this morning (Monday - May 15), following a crazy weekend assisting my daughter and her wonderful boyfriend John in their move to the East Village of Manhattan, it was time for her to catch the subway that would whisk her back to her new, albeit tiny (350 square feet) digs and it was time for me to catch a cab from my hotel to LaGuardia and head back to the land of free refills of sweet iced tea and gentile drivers.
No question, we were all exhausted on every level that one can feel exhaustion; mentally, emotionally and definitely physically. Sleep was not on the agenda, but construction and unpacking was and, given the miniscule space available to work, Katie and John had to get creative with space and they truly did.
But the time that I had dreaded since the evening she and John arrived back home, so giddy about their new apartment, the fact that they were REALLY doing this, had finally come. Six weeks ago all of this "moving to Manhattan" talk felt distant, something so far into the future that I didn't understand that the days were flying by and the future was fast approaching...as futures are wont to do.
I'm not generally one to cry. In fact, I can do stoic with the best of them, but there was nothing stoic about the scene outside the Marriott, with cabs and buses and cars and hundreds of people milling about and getting on with their afternoon business. I didn't cry so much as I actually sobbed - you know, the kind of sobbing that happens when one truly feels something so deep, so impossible to explain or express in any other form or fashion. It just happened and I have the red-rimmed, swollen eyes to prove it - either that, or I've gotten into some serious pollen.
To be honest, my separation anxiety had been building for the past 24 hours. Katie came by the hotel yesterday and we spent some time looking at photos from the weekend, chatting about this and that and everything in between - everything, that is, but the upcoming separation.
I dropped a few tears yesterday which seemed appropriate since it was Mother's Day. But yesterday was nothing close to the torrential tearfall and soaking that occurred as I hugged my daughter for longer than I can recall hugging anyone in recent memory.
I didn't want to let go. I was holding my baby, my co-worker, my partner-in-a-few crimes (nothing major), my almost 23 year companion and my very best friend, and all of those roles were filled by this one amazing 5'0" sprite who is creative, brilliant, quick-tempered, at times impulsive, obstinate, mercurial, whimsical, fickle, passionate and a procrastinator par excellence. I would love to be able to blame her father for the less admirable traits, but she's my clone up one side and down the other. That apple most certainly didn't fall far from this tree.
I know I held her this afternoon in an embrace that had to have lasted close to five minutes. And then I hugged her again. I finally stepped back and then I stood and I watched her walk down that busy street until she turned the corner toward her subway station. I can't remember feeling my heart beat so hard in my chest and the desire to sprint after her and grab her hand and whisk her away with me back to North Carolina. It was so primal. I felt so small and alone and nothing made any sense at all. The anguish I felt was something I had to deal with on my own and for a few minutes I honestly didn't think I could handle any of it.
The bellman hailed a cab and I cried as I climbed in that big yellow taxi and I cried every mile along the way to LaGuardia Airport and that damn American Airlines commuter jet that took me away from my Katie. I cried as the flight attendant went over the take-off spiel as we took off and in her much too perky flight attendant voice, she announced over the PA system, "And, if you look toward the left side of the plane, you can see Shea Stadium, the George Washington Bridge, the Empire State Building - and now you can see the Jersey Shore!". I wanted so much to scream, "Stop this plane - I have to go back! I left something - MY DAUGHTER!!!!!", but that would only have made me look more insane than I probably already appeared.
There I was deep into despair and wouldn't you just know I'd wind up on an airplane with a flight attendant who felt it her duty to point out all of those famous Manhattan landmarks, so chirpy that I wondered if I might have to use one of those air sickness bags. She was definitely thorough and on top of her travelogue game, but my thoughts were riding the subway toward the funky, offbeat streets that define the East Village - and their newest resident.
But somewhere over Maryland, Delaware or maybe it was Virginia, probably between the two tomato juices I sucked down in an effort to replenish some of the fluids I lost through my tear ducts, the crying subsided and some common sense and even some gratitude took its rightful place.
What did I really have to cry about? My daughter is healthy, she is happy, she is excited about this new adventure; she's with a young man who is 26 going on 40 - stable, mature, compassionate and so attentive and kind to her. No small blessing is that because, as Katie and I candidly admit, it takes a special (or cursed) man to handle the likes of us. We're just smug enough to believe we're worth the effort.
John also brings something beautiful to the table in the form of his two aunts, an uncle and a lot of friends in the area who we were privileged to share dinner with Sunday night. There were fifteen of us sharing a delectable dinner at "El Charro", in Greenwich Village, and the food and impeccable service was only surpassed by the warm and wonderful group who welcomed us and made us feel as if we were one of their own. Never have I felt so completely at home among people I had only moments earlier met in person.
John's wonderful Aunt Daria and Aunt Melanie, obviously picking up on my not-so-well disguised growing separation anxiety, sweetly reassured me that Katie and John would be well taken care of and looked after. What a wonderful family John has and how blessed Katie is to be welcomed by them all. They truly are the best kind of fairy godmothers and knowing they are minutes away with watchful eyes affords us an inestimable peace of mind.
I was selfishly crying much more for me and the pain I will feel from not seeing her everyday. I have no doubt that she and John will not only be fine but excel and learn lessons that can only be gleaned from getting out there and living their lives - something we parents spend many years preparing our kids for - watching them take flight and soaring on capable wings, with their feet planted firmly on the ground, of course.
I was almost wistfully wishing that Katie would catch on to this supposed "Twixter" Phenomenon and stay with me for at least another 10 or so years, but that's the selfish part of me talking. In truth, I am proud of her and I admire the way she charges ahead toward her ideals and dreams, even if her dreams take her 800 miles north of me to the foreign shores of Yankees. Fortunately, my West Virginia roots serve me well in this department because neither the South nor the North had much interest in us during the Civil War, so we can adapt to either side of the Mason-Dixon Line. Of course, we do it better with sweet iced tea, but it's like I told Katie...you can't have everything. It may be a small world, but it's not a perfect one. :-)
As for the next few days, I know there are going to be tears and adjustments and in time I know I will make those necessary adjustments and I will be OK, too. But just this second, I wish Katie was sprawled out on my office floor demanding I turn off the computer, cajoling someone to put on a pot of coffee, and kicking back and watching one of her favorite shows (probably involving circus freaks, "Little People, Small World" or the adventures of Carrie on "Sex And The City". And I would turn the computer off, kick back and wonder why in the world she watches those stupid shows...but I would smile - because Katie can elicit a smile from me with such ease and she can pretty much talk me into doing whatever it is that pops into her mind. Did I mention she's incredibly persuasive?
Your family loves you Katie. We want lots of calls, E-mails, chats, photos and stories. Lots of stories. I want details filled with absurdities and sarcasm and your peculiar, David Sedaris-like take on just about everything. And one more thing, I want you to know how very proud I am of you, and just how much you are loved. As you walk through Tompkins Square Park, think of me.
Katie, you really are my hero.
P.S. Aunt Daria and Aunt Melanie and Uncle Bill - keep a keen eye on these two. I know they really are in good company - what a fine family you are and thank you for making this transition easier for all of us. And to John's beautiful mother, Nina, thank you and Marshall for a wonderful dinner last weekend and for raising such an incredible son, along with three equally impressive children. John truly does feel like he's part of our family and we're proud of him as well.
P.P.S. Oh, and Katie, your "Vida" family loves you and misses you almost as much as I do...almost. :-) You do realize you have twoWilmington Moms.