Sunday, August 23, 2015

Last night under my roof

I’ve largely avoided the emotions surrounding this day by not thinking deeply about it.  But now it is here and all those emotions that have been surprisingly well suppressed are erupting at the most inconvenient of times.

My roof was a somewhat expansive concept – it was in fact a very comfortable suite at a Memphis hotel which allowed me to start this while Jilly slept in the adjacent bedroom.  For nearly eighteen years the roof over her head has been my roof – or to be more complete, our roof – the home Joy and I have made for our family.  But today Jilly moves on and becomes a college student, and will spend her first night in her new home – her first and very sweetly decorated (and of course impeccably organized) dorm room at college in Memphis.  Oh she will come home again of course – but nothing will ever be quite the same, and not should it be.

Life is full of circles.  Last week, I had the delight of spending a night at Mallory’s first apartment.  Three years ago under equally strained emotions I wrote about her departure for college.  { I set all my regrets on fire }  Jilly actually got to spend a couple of nights with Mallory a week earlier, road tripping down to Albuquerque with one of her best friends from high school.  They had breakfast on last morning of the visit – just the two of them.  I asked Mallory while enjoying breakfast with her at a quaint little café downtown on Gold Street a few days later what advice she offered her little sister.  Apparently it mostly revolved around clothes and shoes needed for enjoying college – well of course it did… 

Mallory’s apartment by the way is artfully decorated – and surprisingly organized – necessity it seems is the mother of reinvention :)

The weekend in Memphis was busy, which was probably for the best.  Shopping, carrying all sorts of good and chattels up to a remarkably transformed dorm room, unpacking and arranging, more shopping, dining – oh my – the dining, rearranging.  And then Sunday night came and Joy had to return home to her first day of class for the year.  We got through that – it was rough – and Jilly and I continued on with the shopping, more delightful eating and more rearranging.  And finally back to our hotel room – my roof – for one last night.


Jilly awoke fairly early – we still a lot to do.  We had a few moments to get through – momma was gone.  But then the business of the day engulfed us.  And perhaps that was a good thing.  Packing up our room, then lunch at another great spot – The Beauty Shop – just like it sounds – a former beauty parlor transformed into a quaint little restaurant in a part of town that still holds fond memories of my first visit to Memphis.  More room arranging, a welcome event with the field hockey team who have already made us feel so much a part of a new family, changing out the rental car, dinner at another interesting find – Hog and Hominy, dessert (a huge slice of homemade pecan pie) back at One and Only, the great BBQ joint we all ate at earlier in the weekend, and then finally because there was really no longer any avoiding it – one last trip back to the dorm together.

How do you wrap almost eighteen years of love, laughter, tears, joy, silly moments, disappointments, incredible accomplishments, fun, and just being a father and a daughter into a fifteen minute trip?  The simple truth is you can’t.  And while we will get to experience all of these things again, this is a watershed moment (in more ways that one).  I was going to leave and she was going to spend her first night away from our home in a place that is going to become her new home for the next several years.  There were a few moments in the car as the inevitability of the few plays left us that evening started to hit home to Jilly.  I was able to head that off by joking that if I was going to be able to drive this was not going to work at all and she laughed a little.  Time is relentless…

Her dorm room was now quite a contrast – her part of the room as I mentioned was sweetly decorated softening somehow the fierce need for order.  But her roommate would not be arriving for another three days along with the rest of the freshman class.  That area was kind of sterile and uninviting - empty shelves, an untouched desk and perhaps worst of all, a bare mattress.  Being a fall sport athlete gives you the benefit of checking in early and avoiding the chaos we experienced at a much larger university on Mallory’s first day as thousands of others all try and find a close park and flood the stairs and footpaths with endless trips carrying your life for the next year. But as a freshman, that earlier serenity was now transformed into almost eerie silence in the sparsely populated dorms.  We had met the RA for her floor as we walked to her room.  She seemed nice. 

We hung out a little more – I had put off taking care of some important matters – posting my beer explorations in Memphis.  Jilly let me read cards from her momma and big sister.  Recent experience of college life yielded some great pearls of wisdom…

shots are nasty

beer is nasty

perhaps more importantly – people change a lot in college – don’t judge them too soon

and her closing advice – wine is yummy

And then it was time to go.  It was late and I still had a three hour drive ahead of me to an unknown hotel in which I had yet to make a reservation – the late departure meant that it would be in Nashville as I journeyed up to Lexington for meetings the next day.  We held each other for what seemed like an eternity and yet still not long enough.  And of course there were tears – those hot burning tears that come from a deep place within. 

I walked down the stairs alone, fished a box of tissues liberated from the hotel from my bag, and drove away.  I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to get it together pretty much right away.  I don’t know what part of me wanted to believe that doing this a second time around was going to be easier – but finally past experience was paying off!  The rental car had as most do now a blue tooth phone setup and I had various conversations – with momma, with Mallory, and with Jilly.  I was glad she seemed OK – it made the gulf between us expanding at a mile a minute more bearable.  She had updated her calendar with as much of her fall schedule as she knew (of course she did) and taken care of a few other things.  Hockey pre-season activity started early the next morning.  I was glad – perhaps not as glad as Jilly was that she would have plenty to do in the coming days.

Wrapping this up after a few days, and as expected, things settle down and life goes on.  There are good days, and some days are still hard.  As I said earlier, nothing will ever be quite the same, and not should it be – new patterns emerge. 

Mallory writes.  She writes both powerfully and beautifully.  Her words convey great depths of feeling and emotion and impact people intensely.  I don’t know if Jilly writes.  If she does, she does not share it in the same way.  Our girls are so amazingly different, and that is amongst other things, refreshing.  Jilly as her momma says is an incredibly private person.  Jilly takes emotive photographs.  Mallory wrote – posted I think the evening before her last night under my roof something mashed together from the lyrics of a Taylor Swift song (of course she did)…

In this moment now, capture it, remember it. You pull me in and I'm a little more brave, you take my hand and drag me headfirst, fearless.

Last night in Colorado

Mallory was also insightful in her words to her little sister – people change a lot in college. I think for me this is the hard part.  And it not that the changes will be substantial, although I suppose that is not out of the question – both girls are well grounded.  It is more that unlike the past eighteen years we will not get to see it happening day by day.  But that makes the catching up when we do come together again all the more fun.  We’ve given them roots – and now we’ve given them wings.  We hope they will soar, but now it is so much more up to them.

I’ve probably said more than I should and of the few people who may read this, even fewer may make it to this point.  I’ll use the words of another to look forward to whatever it is that lays ahead as Jilly expands her horizons under her new roof.

The rules break like a thermometer,

quicksilver spills across the charted systems,

we’re out in a country that has no language

no laws, we’re chasing the raven and the wren

through gorges unexplored since dawn

whatever we do together is pure invention

the maps they gave us were out of date

by years…
~Adrienne Rich

No comments:

Post a Comment