I woke up this morning, ate a bowl full of berries and honey, drank coffee, and watched the birds. You were upstairs, showering, after crying, ‘ I don’t want to get old!” I made the potato salad for our “social distance picnic,” which will take place six feet apart from your grandparents, whom you have not hugged since you said goodbye at Christmas and boarded the plane back to Michigan. We had no idea that three months later you would be flying back home to finish your sophomore year virtually, leaving your roommates and friends behind.
Peeling the red potatoes always reminds me of Lolo. Even though my version of the salad is vegan and does not have five thousand white onions in it, the act of pulling off the hot, thin, red skin and staring out the kitchen window at the birds, who were fighting over the two blackberries I left in their glass feeder, reminded me of her and I felt her peeling potatoes along with me.
I realized that I forgot the cocoa powder for the cake and, as I had to return the dress I bought for Chris and Justin’s wedding anyway, you joined me in the car to make the 2 minute drive (freedom is just another word for nothing else to do) to the UPS drop off line, and grocery store. Of course, we didn’t just get cocoa. You insisted that I wake you up tomorrow with a mimosa. As we headed toward the champagne aisle you reminded me of why stores cannot label sparking wine “champagne,” unless it was specifically born in Champagne, a tidbit you learned from Professor Ruth Ann Nichols, who was a guardian angel to you your freshman year. You noticed the circus peanuts at the end of the aisle and screamed, “CIRCUS PEANUTS! IT IS MY BIRTHDAY,” and grabbed them, not caring if they weren’t vegan, but knowing that Lolo probably sent them as an angel hello (your shared favorite candy, better when they are stale). In the car, we each ate one and toasted cheers to our Lolo, who we both miss like mad.
As I drove I thought about the windmill and fig newton cookies in her homemade ceramic cookie jar and about how important grandparents can be to our identity. The first text you got today was from Grandpa Greg and it read, “enjoy your last day as a teen.” I think this was about the time you started to cry about old age. He texts you something every morning. It makes me feel lucky.
So here we are during the pandemic, quarantined together, sharing a room. Twenty years ago I was quarantined to this room too. Three months of bedrest, just you and me. In those twenty years, the internet was invented. Netflix. The iPhone. Imagine what life will be like when you are forty. Will we still be wearing masks?
I am grateful that you are my sidekick in quarantine. It is hard for all of us to be in this wee space again. Yesterday I waited ninety minutes for the bathroom. One of the things that makes me saddest in the world is that we never had the kind of house that had room for guests. I always imagined my house being the house that all of your friends hung out at and that our yard would be cozy and whole. I did not imagine a house full of so many broken things. Yet somehow that history has become part of your resiliency. I have watched, in your twenty years, you beam from high highs and I have seen you experience the deepest levels of humiliation and betrayal. No matter which end of the spectrum you are on, you rise up. Nobody puts Baby in the corner. You, dear girl, princess warrior, are here to make your mark. In all of my dreams lately (and maybe it is just because I am in this room again) I am pregnant. I am holding space for you. I am proud to be your mom, amazed at your tenderness and generosity, madly in love with your humor and curiosity.
Happy quarantine birthday, dear Elizabeth. All eyes on you, kid. Just like you like it. I love you. I love you. I love you. One day you will have a daughter, perhaps. You will look down at her newborn face and you will think, “Oh my gosh, I had no idea that my mother loved me like this. How come nobody told me such a big love existed?” I will say, “I tried to tell you, but it is something that can only be felt in the in the space between circus peanut cheers and slick, red potato skins. The love is in the gap.
This is beautifully written! It is amazing how so much change can happen around you but some things still feel solidly the same.
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