January 10, 2004|Posted in: Uncategorized
…I am way too young for this, and yet, here it is: my eldest, who fled the nest last August for her own cottage in the hills and a new life attending college, has returned. This is my eldest girl, the product of my wicked youth, the one about whom people always say, “You’re too young to have an 18-year-old.” Well, yes, but nevertheless, I do. I always laughed about the empty-nesters whose adult children had returned, but I never thought it would happen to me.
A few days before Christmas, she was in a car accident, from which she escaped virtually unscathed. This was every parent’s nightmare, and it still makes me ill to remember it. She was driving to work early one morning down a wet, curving country lane, when she began to fishtail. She lost control of the car as the steering went out and the car went off the road, toward a telephone pole. The witnesses, a kindly man and his young son, told me later that the car flipped over the height of the rural mailboxes, then went into a ditch and rolled over twice. It came to a rest on its roof, and he told me he expected to pull a dead body out. Instead, my very shaken daughter crawled out of the passenger window (in an obscenely short skirt and gigantic chunky shoes) and started crying. The car, on its crushed roof, lay there until the tow truck flipped it and hauled it away. I got there just before it left and, after seeing the car, can’t believe that instead of Christmas we didn’t have a funeral. My daughter, who had but a tiny scratch on her elbow and knee despite the outfit, and not even a mild case of whiplash, was scared but otherwise intact.
What a Christmas gift that was, and let’s not forget to thank our guardian angels, either. A few days later, still in the throes of deepest gratitude, I asked her if she would like to move back in and live at home again. Without hesitation, she said yes.
The next thing I know, I don’t have a sewing room anymore. Man, I really wanted that sewing room, too. My youngest two, who have spent years waiting for Eldest to leave so they could have their own bedrooms, were not willing to consider going back to the old arrangement. In this house, the one I moved to in November to be closer to my aging parents and my college girl, there are three bedrooms and a small entryway that is just wide enough to work as an office or hobby room — my sewing room. I haven’t been here long enough to set it up, but never mind that; now it’s occupied by a double bed and so much girlie stuff that I no longer even venture in. Same as it ever was.
But she’s an adult now. So she comes and goes at any hour, she sleeps in late while we hasten out the door to work and school, and she does her own thing. I’m so glad to have her back; I love her to bits. I was happy to have my own bathroom in this house, but now I’m sharing it with a variety of curling irons and cosmetics — my bathroom! I came home from work the other night and not only was my parking space taken by her friends, but the other extra space, and I had to park out on the street! In the rain! As the entryway/sewing room space has no storage, she has moved clothes into my closet, and her brand-new towels and sheets are crowding in with my linens, also in my closet. Her vast horde of snack foods is overflowing in my kitchen. My laundry baskets runneth over.
With her newfound college sophistication, she says, “Oh, hella, dude,” for “yes,” and “For %^*$’s sake,” apropos of nothing. She brought her cat back with her, the kitten who was once such a terror, and has the temerity to tell him (the cat!) to call me grandma. OK, I can deal with the strangely foul language and the curling iron collection and even the smart answers I get for every single exchange, but I will tell you something right now, missy. I am not the cat’s grandma.
As the weeks pass, we are settling in and getting used to one another again. I’ve even come home once or twice to find all the dishes done or laundry folded. I like it! We’re back to having our late-night chats, till 1 a.m. sometimes, which pains me in the morning. (Not her; she gets to sleep in.) It’s more like having a roommate than a daughter these days; most of the time it’s pretty good.
Despite those few minor details like having to buy her another car and deal with the insurance and squeezing four of us into a too-small house and her nonstop barrage of smackable one-liners, having her here — alive, thank God — is fine. As long as the cat doesn’t call me Grandma.
Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, author, and blogger. She is the author of six books: three novels, one poetry collection, and two women's history. She was the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California, in 2014-17. She's also the conservatrix of The Doris Diaries, the diaries of her great-aunt Doris Bailey Murphy. She has a BA in journalism from San Francisco State University, and MA in Early 20th C. British Literature from Cal State Hayward. Julia's articles have appeared on Salon, Thrillist, Paste, Scary Mommy, Narratively, Yahoo News, Your Tango, and Sweatpants & Coffee. Her articles have also run in Redbook, Woman's Day, Country Living, House Beautiful, Town & Country, the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Magazine, Quill, and MadeLocal. She was the founding editor of weekly Alameda Sun and literary zine Red Hills Review. Her poetry has been in The East Bay Literary review, Postcard Poems, Americus Review, Cicada, Tiferet Review, and many others. Julia has been recognized several times by the San Francisco, East Bay and Peninsula Press Clubs as well as the California Newspaper Association for her blogging since 2003.