For the last couple years, T.D. and I start our little forays out into the world together with a spat that involves me hissing at her to pull up her pants (we might run into Hoss at the airport ) and telling her that, in general, she’s a major disappointment to me as she fails to live up to her potential and continues to date The Putz. Surprisingly, she responds by telling me I’m full of you know what and to never speak to her again, EVER IN THIS LIFE TIME. Then I hiss, "You know I’m right! You know you lose every car key you touch and you could have been half way through U of Chicago by now!" For reasons that are never clear to me she she starts to walk away yelling over her shoulder, "I am never coming to your house again!" (When you fail at marriage and get divorced you give children more grief and more options.)
Then we get on the plane separately as though we don’t know each other, stash our carry-on luggage and settle into our seats. We don’t speak until after the beverage service and then I usually try to make pleasant conversation by saying cheerfully, "Good! I guess that means you’ll stop stealing all the bras and tampons in the house." (It’s not necessary for you to compliment me on my parenting skills in the comment area. But, thanks.)
Although we’ve been traveling together for years, just the two of us, we haven’t always gotten off to such rocky starts. When she was 11 I took her to the tiny island of Nevis in the Dutch West Indies, when she was 12 we kayaked the Inside Passage of Alaska with just a guide and his wife, camping all the way up and taking the Marine Highway ship back down. At 13 we went to Honduras and when she was 14 we began scouting out the best dive spots across the Caribbean. We traveled off the beaten path, stayed in small but clean family run hotels and ate off the shelves of local markets. T.D. was always delighted, always relaxed, always easy. She was up for every adventure without complaint and she still always acts as though the world is her oyster.
(When I do write the book I want, it will be largely about our travels together. There will be a whole chapter on the day we happened on the woman who raises sled dogs, including all the lovelies in the movie White Fang ,and is a winner of the Iditarod . We found her as we walked down an alley in Haines, Alaska; she was outside in her fenced backyard, surrounded by a dozen beautiful animals, each with their own house, and she was sewing literally hundreds of doggie ice booties on an old Singer machine.)
But for now, T.D. and I have entered a period of ambivalence and struggle. I believe it’s because we are two strong forces; she’s the Protostar from outer space and I’m a chunk of earthen clay and we have some weird magnetic attraction that has stuck us powerfully together for years. Getting this kind of energy apart takes hard work. That’s the work I think we’re doing now.
The trip to Florida was short, exhausting and wonderful. After a mere four hours of sleep we raced off to the DMV to get her Florida license. Then we beat it over to freshman orientation. After asking a million questions of the people in financial aid (they all boiled down to the same question: how on earth??!?!) I left her at the student life table signing up for the Harborside Activities Board, the Bayboro Sail Club and the Marine Science Advisory Committee. I could have stayed; they had a side-by-side program for parents, but somehow she seemed better off without me in her line of sight so I spent the next hours at Wachovia Bank setting up accounts and filling out forms and then at the bike store, getting her transportation.
When I picked her up at 330pm she insisted on tapping me for 28.00 to run get a pair of USF Bulls sweat pants from the bookstore and we burned rubber for the airport. She changed into her new sweatpants and then by some miracle (or because of the shabby mess on the identical flight a couple months ago) we found ourselves in first class, with a real pasta dinner and, for mom, drinks on the house. We were quiet, each engrossed in our own book, but it felt peaceful and I felt as though I was in the company of the most wonderful daughter in the whole world. About half way through she volunteered her class schedule of good tough high level math and science courses and a small group honors humanities seminar. She said she had the number of two new friends and a plan to start a dog walking business with one of them. I asked her if she was pleased and if this felt different from last year (when she was staying in town and starting by default at a school not of her choosing.) She was positively glowing with all of her protostar energy as she said, "Mom, I can’t wait! I’m so excited!" As she chattered for the next hour I was ninety percent with her, every step of the way.
Ten percent? I don’t want her to leave. Ever. She’s killing me here.