At 4:30 a.m. the waterfront view is fully saturated one day and colorless mist the next. The best hints I gather from my starting vantage point a few blocks away lie in the light: usually a patch of shimmering silvery-slate in the deep blue-black signals an unsubdued sunrise, and I quicken my pace.
It’s a little bit like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, or the first view of monochromatic tartan turf from inside Fenway Park: you might gather clues or intuit what your senses will tell you before you get to it, but until you do it’s never a sure thing.
I took this shot before the morning light last week before travelling several hundred miles for my younger daughter’s college graduation.
My little girl. I dropped her off at college and when it was time to say goodbye watched her twirl around and dance away in a swirling aubergine skirt, knowing she was “alright as she left” her home port.
Ten hours later, driving back to a truly unoccupied house that had seemed empty when it was inhabited by a family of only five, I was lost in an industrial park in Connecticut and found the CD my husband had somehow arranged for me to find two-and-a-half years after he died, popping it in to play and knowing only that he had selected for me John Hiatt songs from an enormous ouvre.
Before leaving home I asked my youngest if I should bring anything–did she want me to bring the necklace her father gave her for her birthday, just three weeks before he died? On a delicate silver chain is a ruby–her primary school color, and a shade not unlike her long, curly hair–surrounded by small diamonds, a treasure she let me keep in a safe place despite knowing of my tendency to forget where I have secreted such things.
She did, and I brought it for her to wear.
When we arrived, my now young adult youngest child met us at the airport, smoothly executing a parallel parking maneuver I still can’t pull off. She whisked us to her apartment and commencement eve’s blizzard of friends and activity.
A university her father did not know she would attend. A boyfriend of four years whom he never met. A city he had never visited. Friends whom he would have been so delighted to see supporting her.
This was to be the fifth college commencement my husband would not attend in a traditional way.
After deftly reparking the car I had left egregiously unmoored from the curb, my graduate-to-be walked ahead of me in a flowing, bright printed dress, part of a wardrobe I’d never seen. I recognized the shoes, heels with an intricate cut-out design which we’d bought for her first birthday without her dad. We’d traveled together to Vermont, where the six of us had often spent her winter birthday, and I’d trudged aimlessly in an uncharacteristically muddy early March, hearing a little girl happily calling out “daddy” from a bunny slope.
While we were together I saw my daughters exchange glances quite a few times, at more than one restaurant, before gently reminding me that I kept asking for tables for one more person than was to be dining with us.
Only one of us does not have a major transition going on–new homes and jobs and graduate schools, and all their attendant and considerable hopes and stresses.
We can’t know exactly how all of these changes will work out, and while it may not be wise to steer too hard a-starboard, keep walking ahead of me. Someday I may catch up.