My daughter has decided smoking relieves her of stress. My feelings about this are no secret, but right now I am grateful to soak in a few more moments with her before she boards her plane. We sit on a rock wall in the warm November sun, outside the Albuquerque airport. I swing my legs as she rolls a cigarette, thinking of things I should, maybe should, or most certainly can’t say. With a heart as full as mine, I need to be careful or it just might overflow in a way that is sure to embarrass this emotionally reserved child of mine. Finally breaking the companionable silence, I make some remark about the beauty of the tree above us. It releases yellow leaves with each whisper of breeze, they swirl and land every which way, bits of gold on the brown earth. Plants are safe conversational topics when my brain is full of everything but.
Cigarette finished, we make our way to the crowded TSA gate, that maze of official ribbon separating those leaving from those left behind. Ah, time for the HUG. The HUG always does me in. Why can’t we thump each other on the back, like men do? We can’t, we are not made that way. I wrap my arms around this girl of mine, my very full heart finally springing a leak. She can feel this and pulls back, “Mother, NO CRYING!!”, then kindly gives me a final tight squeeze.
“Bossy, she is always so bossy!” My annoyance steels me. She is right, crying is for sad occasions or terribly happy ones. This is just a departure, one of many, past and future. As she begins her shuffle through the maze, I shout that she has a special unaccompanied minor ticket and can go through the pre-check line. She flaps an impatient hand at me, continuing to laboriously snake her way through the zig-zaggy pattern. As she approaches the agent, I feel a surge of satisfaction when he looks at her ticket and directs her… to the pre-check line.
There are other people waiting with me. Why do we do this? These people we have hugged and kissed and wept over are as good as gone, though we can still see them. They are not returning, nor do they want to. Still, we stand there, watching, hoping they will turn around and if they do, we wave frantically, hop up and down excitedly. Is this helpful? Do they feel extra loved if we stay till the very last second? I do not know but the thought of turning my back before she is out of sight is unimaginable.
As she leans down to pick up her backpack, tucking her ID safely inside her wallet, a cascade of brown silky hair sweeps across her back. My breath catches and I look around to see if the others notice this beautiful creature of mine. They do not, they are watching their own beautiful creatures. A young woman in red, with a fat baby strapped to her front, has two sets of grandparents keeping track of her and her little one. A clean-cut businessman in a navy suit turns to wave at a silver-haired gentleman off to my left, and a middle-aged woman loaded down with a camping backpack, off on an adventure, has a portly hubby in a too-tight teeshirt gazing after her.
Jane turns for a last look, all part of The Departure ritual. Resisting the frantic waving, I blow kisses instead, just like my Texas grandmother used to do. One - Two - Three. It is comforting to imagine kisses floating along above the heads of the crowd, landing on her cheek after I have turned and gone. They are promises of a next time, hopefully soon.