And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
Olivia’s been out of the house and at college now for about a month. Some folks have been asking how I’m dealing with that. My answer really depends, not only on the day, but on the minute. If I’ve just walked past her bedroom and glanced in to see the empty spaces where things used to be, gaps on the walls, her violin, guitar and ukulele no longer leaning against the wall, and Olivia herself no longer reclined on her bed, headphones in, feet pumping with the beat of the music only she can hear, her hands fluttering like birdwings, well, then I’d say I’m not doing so well. But, if it’s 3:05 and I’m still seated comfortably at my desk, writing, not having to interrupt the flow to drive through let’s-get-out-of-here-fast parent traffic and dodging new-kid-driver amateur mistakes, then I’d probably cheer. And then there are the moments where cheers and tears are only seconds apart. Because while her room is empty (tears), it’s cleaner than it’s been in years (cheers), and while I don’t have the jaw-clenching terror of picking her up at school (cheers), I no longer have the drone from the passenger seat of “Nothing happened today,” followed by the endless speed-speak chatter of everything that did happen (tears). I was usually exhausted by the time we pulled into the garage from listening to everything that was nothing.
So it’s been a mix. Yes, I miss her.
Last week, Olivia came home for a violin lesson. She thought she knew the way well enough that she no longer needed the GPS. Which is why, at 8:30 p.m., I received a wailing phone call. “I’m lost, Mama! I don’t know where I am! I’m in the parking lot of that Applebees we always go to! I think I was headed toward Madison!”
So for those of you that don’t live here – Mount Mary University is 15.7 miles away. The route takes Olivia from the parking lot, through a couple turns, then turn left on a well-marked major road, follow for a couple miles, turn right on a well-marked major road and follow it home. For Olivia to end up at one of our usual Applebee’s, she’d either be in Delafield, which would overshoot Waukesha, or in Pewaukee, which would put her on a road she’d have to take a whole other route to. It didn’t make any sense.
“Put your GPS on,” I said. “It will tell you where you are.” And tell me too, I thought.
So she did. She was in West Allis. She never turned right on that second major road and just kept going. In general, she was heading more toward Chicago, not Madison. We’ve never been to the West Allis Applebee’s.
Even though her GPS was now on, I got in my car, found her, and she followed me home. It made us both feel better.
But I did my share of swearing on the way out there. No tears, no cheers. Lots of muttered curses and head-shaking. But you know. I got my girl. And I made sure she was safe.
So today, she’s coming home again. She works this weekend. Earlier today, while I was talking to her on Facebook Messenger, I verified she was indeed coming home tonight and not tomorrow, and said, “No getting lost!”
She answered, “I swear I won’t accidentally end up in West Allis.”
The words I typed in return were simply, “Just end up home.”
If I’d said them out loud, I would have emphasized the word, “Home.” “Just end up HOME.”
And if Olivia had been in the room with me, she would have heard me add the words:
Because this house just isn’t the same without you.
Because I need to hear your voice.
Because I need to feel you wrap your arms around my neck, press your lips to my cheek and say, “Goodnight, Mama,” as you have almost every night for almost 19 years.
Because I miss you so.
She typed back to me, “I will, Mom.” And then told me she needed more quarters for her laundry.
Now, today is the release of my tenth book (fifth novel), If You Tame Me. The book has received some wildly wonderful reviews. I am more than excited about it. Ten books feels like…like something I can’t put a word to. Accomplished? Validated? Like I’m real? None of those will do. But it feels like SOMETHING. You would think the release would be my moment of happiness.
No. It’s those words.
“I will, Mom.” (cheers)
The use of the word Mom instead of Mama…(tears).
But she’ll be HOME.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.