Caller ID: First Grade

“Mommy, I’m just calling to tell you… I don’t miss you right now.”

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Asparagus and Clementines

I could totally be a city girl.

In my one-extra-day in Chicago, Mindy and I strolled the city blocks a little bit.  After we sat in Starbucks for a long bit.  And we strolled because we’re both directionally challenged and couldn’t find the most direct route to Garrett’s Popcorn even with the help of the blue dot on the Google maps.

I think one of the most charming things about ‘the city’ is the markets.  I am so enchanted by the idea of choosing each day what I want to prepare, going to the market with my green tote, and storing up on 5-7 items like asparagus and clementines and fine cheeses and fresh breads.

And white wine.  Or a dry red.

It occurs to me that I could easily make this part of my daily life now.  But something about driving in a minivan and using coupons and fitting it in between basketball practice and dental appointments… there’s something about it that’s not quite so dreamy.

Plus, I would inevitably forget my reusable grocery bags and have 47 plastic ones to carry from the van to the kitchen.  It’s just not the same.

But, if I lived in the city – oh, if I lived in the city – I would charm myself with a daily routine.  And I would be prepared with my short list and my grocery bag.

I just know I would.

She

She made an appointment to visit the house that was hers the day before.

She brought two friends along, who began as real estate specialists and have found roots in her heart.  She arrived and saw that the new owners were parked in the garage.  She later found their things in the house.  Their work at redecorating had begun, and the bathroom lights were coming down.  Dangling, actually.

She walked through each room.
She talked about something she had loved in each room.
“He always walked into that chandelier, anytime the kitchen table was moved for any reason,” she said.
“I bought the house for this kitchen,” she said.
“The deck was a gift to me from my church community,” she said.
“The wood floors were a gift to me from a blog reader,” she said.
“The faucet?  He changed that as soon as we moved in.  Not because there was anything wrong with the old one.  Just because I mentioned I’d like one that was taller.  So he replaced it.  Which is how he made most of his decisions: there’s nothing wrong with it, but I can get her a better one.”

She looked at the washer and dryer, the space where she learned to be a mom, where she learned that love is not always a feeling.  Sometimes it’s clean underwear and folded undershirts.

She walked into the bedroom.
The sunlight shone on the carpet, lit up the walls in the bare room.
She lay on the floor.
“He was here.  He was right here.”
She wept, her tears spilling on the carpet and into her hands.  She lay where he had lain, her head where his had been.  “He was here.”
She lay still, sobbing.  Remembering.
Her friends stayed with her.

She sat up on her knees.  She looked around the room.  She rememberd other things, better times.
“He painted this room for me while I was on a girls’ weekend away.  It always bothered him that he ran out of time.  He would have done one more coat,” she said.
“I told him I was pregnant in this room, right in that little space there.”
“What did he say?” her friend asked.
“He picked me up.  He held me.  He said, ‘Let’s do this thing, momma.'”

She let the sun fall on her.
She soaked it in, with the smells of the room, the feel of the carpet, the knowledge that she could never come back.
She cried until she was finished.
And then she stood up.
“Okay.  I’m finished,” she said.

She closed the door behind her;
her fingers lingered on the doorknob.

Her friends loaded her car with the items remaining, far more than a box, far less than a life.
She locked the door behind her and handed over the key.

She walked to her car.
She carried a broom, a doorstop, and a picture frame.

And her life mattered.

One Box on the Counter

The girl next to me on the plane looks like Amanda Seyfried, from Les Mis and Mamma Mia. Which means she also looks like my friend Joelle from high school. Timeless beauty, blond hair that’s just past control, piled high on her head in an unruly bundle.

She’s thin. Even when she reached up into the overhead bin to put her bag away, when her shirt rose with her arms and the ribbon of her middle peeked through just above her jeans, she’s thin. She brought an orange and almonds to snack on. She peeled her orange during take off, and she has a small pile of large peels on the corner of her seatback tray. It smells so fresh. I’d like to thank her for bringing organic air freshener.

But I don’t feel like talking.

She’s wearing a sparkling diamond on her left hand. A simple, thin band. All understated but nonetheless glistening in the dimmed lights of the cabin. She’s writing notes on lime green stationery. She’s working her way down a list. I see ‘thank you’ written at the top of one; she’s writing thank you notes. Maybe she just finished a bridal shower. Maybe her college girls hooked her up with satins and scents for the honeymoon. Maybe her mom’s friends have equipped her kitchen. She’s getting married. She’ll write a million of those notes. She should start with the oldest guests on her gift list. They’re the ones who most anticipate the hand-written thank you. If she gets to the end of the list and she’s run out of steam, the college girls won’t mind at all if she shoots them a text to say: “Tx for the sexy stuff. He’s going to luv it. xoxoxo.”

Today was the closing on my Cherryhurst home. I wasn’t there; I was in Chicago, growing less charmed by the hot dogs and popcorn that swept me off my feet 48 hours ago when I started this trip home. But the buyers moved forward. Because it’s their house now. And they don’t need my signature to complete their half of the ownership. They asked if they can come in my house – their house now – to begin their appointments with contractors and decorators house-changers. It’s just that I left one more box on the counter. I was going to go get it this morning, walk the halls, visit each room, and lock the door one more time. But, the whole Chicago thing happened. I think I subconsciously – or subversively? – left it there so I’d have one more reason to go back. One more time. Today it became their home. They got to come in and make their plans and dream their dreams. And my box sat on the kitchen counter. I want to be home. I want to be home.

I have cried a lot today. At a Chicago Starbucks with one friend. On the phone at the airport with another.

Dear lovely bride beside me, with your tousled hair and your sparkling left hand, I have no words for you.

Except maybe this. Beginnings are beautiful. Endings are hard. Transitions matter. Say thank you a lot, to your mom, your friends, your friends’ moms, and your mom’s friends. Tomorrow I’m going to say goodbye to my house. And I’ll take my last box, and I’ll lock the door with someone else’s key. That’s what I would say to you, lovely bride.

But I just don’t feel like talking.

Cancelled.

Flight 132 to Denver: CANCELLED.  So I guess there’s snow in Denver, then, is what I hear, is the word on the street.  Or in the air.

I was going to come home today.  I promised two little boys I would come home on Sunday.  I was going to close on a home tomorrow.

Weather restrictions don’t have any room for sentences that begin with, “But I was going to…”

Lots of people are angry here at the Chicago Midway airport.  I don’t see much point in that, since the flight attendant behind the counter didn’t cancel the flight as a personal decision of her own volition.

I’m actually kind of thankful they’ve updated Midway since Robb and I flew through a few years ago, that time when we ran to catch our connecting flight and we were stopped by police who thought we were running from them. Back then, Midway was like an outdated skating rink with layered paint peeling off the railings.

First available flight: tomorrow night.

If you see my kids, tell them I am trying to get to them as fast as I can.  And if you don’t see them, pray for their courage for one more day.

Mindy is my Chicago girl, and she’s on her way to scoop me up for a night.  She is my silver lining.

I’m here for 26 additional hours.  I’ll have a hot dog.  Some popcorn.  Maybe I’ll start reading a new book.  Maybe I’ll start writing one.

Since I’m not going home.