The sun rose this morning in dramatic flourishes of pink and orange. Never mind that later the clouds and the gray winter reasserted themselves as members of my family left for the airport.
I am grateful for the memory of standing in the front room with my youngest daughter and marveling at the stunning moment that was today’s brief sunrise.
Today was a day full of farewells, and hers would be the first. She would be on her way to the airport by 8 a.m. We hugged, many times, and I told her I wished that she and I had had more time just to talk, the two of us, and she said, “But, Mom, I call a few times a week.”
And I struggled to know how to say, “But that’s not quite the same thing.”
During the first third of January, our home devolved into happy, exhausting chaos. Because of work and other family obligations, our immediate family, which lives in four different time zones, was not together for Christmas.
So even though the poinsettias were drooping, our family gathered for a late celebration that began on New Year’s Eve and stretched beyond Epiphany. With two 20-somethings who still like to party, a 2-year-old granddaughter who likes to rise with the dawn, and her parents who reluctantly rise with her, the dead quiet of night was sometimes hard to pin down to a decent block of time.
Under the best of conditions, I sleep poorly and a full house on different schedules is not conducive to rest for the insomniac. And no matter how much seven people love one another, and are genuinely easy to get along with, there’s an occasional moment of stress.
Nevertheless, the chaos that sometimes reigned was a benevolent ruler, and we had fun.
But those goodbye days are tough.
My goodbye morning was full. A neighbor needed me because this was the day her second child would be born, and she had to be at the hospital to be induced by 8 a.m. Her best-laid plans were unsettled by a 2-year-old with a fever who suddenly couldn’t go to day care as usual. A grandfather drove all night to spend the day, but I was needed to help bridge the gap between the parents’ departure for the hospital and his arrival.
In the meantime, my three kids, one son-in-law and my 2-year-old granddaughter prepped for three trips to the airport while I played next door with a 2-year-old who had no idea his world was about to be rocked.
Even my husband was flying out on business. I felt lonely and as I looked at my little friend, I marveled at how it seemed just yesterday mine were that age and I had felt as if they were mine to keep.
Fortunately, I wasn’t gone long and was home to spend the last couple of hours with a shrinking circle of family. By 1 o’clock, I was home from the airport to an utterly silent house. I started dusting, discarding the last stale Christmas cookie, putting the first of many loads of sheets and towels in the wash.
But I was also drawn into the silence, a silence filled with gratitude. I’m pulled toward poetry at such moments, a form of prayer for me.
So I took Mary Oliver from the shelf. Within her pages, she told me, “If you want to talk about this, come to visit. I live in the house, near the corner, which I have named Gratitude.”