Leaving home, early Thursday morning
Last week we took Grace and Whit to camp. This is Grace’s fourth summer, and Whit’s second. The drop-off doesn’t get easier. I’m realizing that’s because the experience forces me to confront where we are right now, and in so doing to reckon with all that is already past. It is impossible to drop them off without realizing in a visceral way that the path forward holds ever-more dropoffs, ever more farewells, that the distance between them and me continues to stretch as we move forward.
Yes, yes, I trust in the red cord that ties our hearts. I do. But it’s still hard.
Beloved, Bear, and Beloved’s Brother lined up on Whit’s pillow at camp. He ran to join his cabinmates in a game so fast I didn’t even get a picture of him, so I took a photo of these much-loved faces instead.
For some reason, dropping them off and leaving without them – and, maybe most of all, coming back into a house that feels echoingly empty – brings me face to face with many emotions.
I am reminded that my everyday life is full of magic, a truth that Grace saw, and told me, before I ever did myself. That happened the night before I took her to camp the very first time, and I still think of that conversation all the time.
I think of my dearest lifetime friend, who I met at this very camp many years ago. When I walk through the familiar camp grounds it feels as though the ghosts of the girls we were swirl around me like dust. I fall into the black hole of memory where individual moments flash and glint: when I first met Jess, the moment she pulled up to be my co-counselor in cabin 18 after we hadn’t spoken in several years, her gorgeous, sun-drenched wedding, the morning I called her in a whisper to say I’d seen a second, shadowy line on a pregnancy test. There are a million other memories that drift over me like snowflakes, together forming a bank that is one of the essential bulwarks of my life.
Most of all, dropping Grace and Whit off presents me with blinding evidence of how much I love my own life. Right now, this, this mess, this beauty, this noise, this holiness. This. These moments, which seem to run through my fingers ever more quickly. I think of the glorious good fortune that my children will stand in the same outdoor theater that I did, their arms looped around their friends’ shoulders, singing Taps, and also of the keenly painful reality that the years in between those two events have evaporated so quickly I can’t catch my breath. Then and now, past and present swirl together in a burst of rainbow memory, lit by flashes of lightning, and I swallow, and try to hold back my tears as I hug my children goodbye.
I thought of Churchill’s quote about how “this is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. But it is perhaps the end of the beginning.” We left the end of the beginning back a while ago already. And here we are, in the thick of it, life itself, teeming with both laughter and loss, joy and love and sorrow, every single day a tapestry of experience and memory. Often this crazy quilt overwhelms me, and it did last week as we drove home from camp.
Grace standing on the way to the beach. I have walked through this passage hundreds of times. Last summer Jess and I took photographs at sunset on this beach, and I treasure them.
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