I’ve never been moved away from. I’ve always been the one to move away. Growing up, my dad’s job hopped us around the country every few years. I left college in Georgia to follow love back to Montana.
It is hard to say goodbye when you are the one leaving but I learned yesterday that it is harder to be the one left. That and, also, I am older and smarter, more in touch with my vulnerabilities, more understanding of mortality. As a mama, I feel my daughters’ emotions and feel what they can’t yet feel because the concept of 1700 miles is about as understandable as next month to my three and five year olds.
We referenced our globe. Ruby found Montana and then Margot found China, where her classmate is from. And then she found Mexico, where our friends live. I pointed to Arkansas, where Pam is moving, and Margot saw what I saw. She said, “Well that’s hardly far at all!” True, compared to China and Mexico.
Our dear friend who is family, Pam, moved away. We’ve seen each other a lot in the last few months, in anticipation of this day. On Sunday I felt panicky like I hadn’t seen enough of her, I hadn’t finished her going away present. Andy gently reminded me of the four going-away parties, the weekend away, the dinners. It won’t ever feel like enough because it doesn’t feel comfortable to imagine her more than 1/2 mile away.
My kids are super sick and the last few days have been emotionally exhausting. Lots of feverish coughing, movie watching, smoothie consuming. Ruby speaks a different language when she’s sick. It’s like whining but more; she speaks whine even when not complaining. Every sentence is almost unbearable. As I was dressing this morning she spoke slowly in a squeaky, barely audible whimper, in Whinese, “maaamaaaaa? I really wish you had a pink bra to match those pretty undies.”
I cried hard yesterday when I hugged Pam goodbye in her driveway. We’d spent the day together, my feverish kids laying across Pam’s lap while she swept their hair from their eyes. It will be a miracle if she escapes illness but she doesn’t care. This is perfectly perfect, she said.
Pam’s departure got me thinking about lots of things but mostly I keep returning to the importance of other awesome, inspiring adults in my kids’ lives. I think back on my honorary aunts and uncles and my real ones. Those relationships shaped me as a young kid, especially the people who talked to me, really talked to me. Asked me questions, called me on my birthday, interacted with me like a real person to be heard from. There are the adults who ask you to sit at the kid table and there are the adults who can’t wait for you to sit on their lap.
Margot and Ruby are the luckiest, in my opinion. Our closest friends have been in our lives for many years and they love our kids in a way that might have initiated because of us but now has nothing to do with us. I am endlessly comforted by and thankful for that. For all the parenting questions I have, I am wholly confident in this: my children are surrounded by the wit and wisdom of passionate, proactive, thoughtful, generous, wise, kind, unique and authentic adults. And that is the most profound, most beautiful education I can give my daughters.