In March 2020, our daughter came home to Nashville for what was supposed to be a two-week visit that turned into months. This was written in July, when I drove her back to Chicago where she is in school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
It’s still sunny when we arrive on Ella’s street in Washington Park. And there are Sarah and Rachel three floors up on the front porch, Ella on the sidewalk below; an overdue reunion. More follow in the evening; the love of her friends is a light to witness, the outer bubble of it extending to me by way of being “Ella’s mom”. It fills me; she is not alone in this city that can be so bitterly cold.
I spend the morning on the front porch with coffee, reading the book on prison reform Ella loaned me, a treasure given to her by the author himself. Traffic moves forever south below on this one-way street; a river flowing in the direction of home. It is good to linger here a bit, and watch it pass. I need more time to soak in this place that enfolds my daughter’s life.
We unload groceries and cook a meal, and I begin to know my way around my daughter’s kitchen, begin to know where to find coffee and sugar and, and how the cats will fight for the spot in the window sill that faces East, how Sonny will claw at the screen and long to be outside, how Silas will catch flies and Maisy will eat them. Ella tells me the painting I’m admiring on the kitchen wall is Rachel’s, and I am once again in awe at the talent of these three young artists who have made a home together.
Her bedroom has a feel of hers at “home”, but more grown up and softer around the edges. We spend time there, Rat enjoying the companionship of two not always reciprocating captive cats, me soaking in the surroundings while Ella moves about, organizing. There on the wall is the quilted rainbow and cloud that hung in my own room as a child. There is the painting of Ella and Rat made by a friend. There, draped above the window, is the yellow mesh I sent in her birthday package last year; a wisp of love when I could not be there. There is the stack of books on her bedside table, the photos, the clothes ~ they are a tapestry of old and new, relics from her childhood and her new life in this place.
In her bathroom, still clinging to the shower wall, the post it note I stuck on the cover of a book written and sent by a friend, on the mirror hangs the mask from “Sleep No More,” which our family attended in New York in March, on the window sill the jewelry from her mother and grandmother mingles with that she has acquired from others or by herself. On the fridge is a post card from “home”, and on the radiator, the hat I crocheted for her two winters ago. All these bits of her family life and the life she had before moving away are more deeply woven into her college life than I realized. And I drink in this time to be cocooned in her world.
The morning of day three is time to go – time to release her to her friends without the weight of sharing space with her mom.
The thread begins to unravel as I shut the apartment door, and make my way down three flights of creaking wooden steps. When I pass through the double threshold of glass doors of the foyer it unwinds suddenly, a few tears making their way out with the force of its uncoiling. Once I pass through these doors there is no running back to knock on the door for a hug or final departing word. This is the divider between her world, and the start of the long road back to mine.
For miles, it feels like a heart filament is tethered to my daughter in her apartment. Its rapid unraveling leaves a hole. But as the land opens and stretches, the filament transforms, becomes more ethereal and less linear, forever connected, but not a tether. Like a radio wave, its power to traverse distances is infinite, if not always transmitting with perfect clarity.
Wherever in the world she lands, it can reach her.