It’s that time of year again, mid-August and time to go back to school. Time for parents to take their kids to Target or Wal-Mart loaded with the traditional list of school supplies: pencils, pens, spirals, highlighters. Time for new blue jeans, or school uniforms, and for sure a new backpack. But, I’m feeling a bit out of sorts as this is the first August in 23 years when I have no child going back to school. Our youngest daughter graduated from college in May and just moved to New York City for a job. That, in itself, is a major transition, which is evident from the reaction of everyone I know, and even strangers, who say “WOW! New York? HOW EXCITING!” No one says that when your child gets a job in your hometown. They say, reservedly, “Congratulations,” or “That’s great,” but not, in a high-pitched voice, “WOW! HOW EXCITING!” That is reserved for a job in New York. Others offer, “Well, she’ll either love it or hate it.” Which could be said for most jobs, but people don’t say that when your child gets a job in San Antonio or Dallas or Houston.
It happened very quickly, my daughter’s new position. She interviewed a couple of times then the offer seemingly came out of the blue. She had to make a quick decision as the job started in ten days. With tears in her eyes, she said, “I’m going.” And, my husband and I supported her decision. The pay was decent, the perks even better and she was fulfilling her dream. The next thing I knew, she’d found a place to sublet for the first month, which would give her time to look for a more permanent situation. She agreed to let me come help her get situated. We each lugged two over-stuffed bags through La Guardia to the taxi stand, and the agent whistled for a van to help us with our load. We eventually made it to the East Village and to her temporary home. As we lugged our bags down 9th Street from Second Avenue, we both smiled. It was the quintessential Carrie Bradshaw, Sex & the City New York neighborhood. In a few minutes the lessor arrived with the keys and we walked up the two flights to her apartment. “I’m sorry it’s such a mess,” she said, “But the girl who was leasing went home to India and I really don’t understand the situation. Oh, and she took the window unit with her.” The place was a hot mess, literally. Shoes were tossed in the common area, lots of shoes. A large box rested against the wall. A stained pillow and blanket had been tossed on the sofa. Trash was piled up in and around the trash can in the kitchen, under yellow sticky notes that read “Hard plastic,” “Paper & Cardboard,” “Landfill.” Opened boxes of cereal, Keurig pods, and shopping bags full of plastic bags were evident. There were dirty dishes in the sink and no paper towels on the paper towel holder over the sink. I heard a persistent drip, drip, drip coming from the bathroom. I peeked in to see a toilet full of pee and paper and a dirty bathtub with hair in the drain. The bathroom rug was wet and the shower curtain mildewed. My daughter proceeded to her bedroom. “Mom, look how pretty the trees are. And the courtyard down below.” It was pretty. Hot, but pretty. We opened the windows wide and realized how quiet it was despite the busy, bustling neighborhood streets below. We glanced into the bedroom next door and found clothes hanging on nails on the walls; there was no closet! But my daughter was lucky enough to have a closet and two big windows. Life was good. And she was happy.
We left the apartment and went to the nearest Bed Bath & Beyond. For a minute, things seemed familiar. Then we saw the escalator just for shopping carts! We loaded our cart with a couple of fans, two pillows, a light blanket, and other necessities, paid for it all and exited the store. Then it was time to extract our bags from the cart and make our way down the street to a taxi. Amazingly, we did it, each carrying multiple shopping bags. A cab whipped over, picked us up and soon delivered us to the apartment. We felt like we had accomplished something major. We high-fived and we smiled.
A couple of days later it was time for me to go home. But first, I took my daughter and two of her friends from college out to dinner. The mood was light and gay and the girls promised to look out for each other. Too soon, we all said goodnight and I walked my young one home. We tried to keep things light as we watched the homeless curled up in doorways, young boys skateboarding down the street, the change of a neighborhood from bustling frenetic daytime to the quieter dark of night. Too soon we returned to her apartment. Standing on the sidewalk out front we turned toward each other with tears in our eyes. I hugged her and told her I knew she was where she belonged and wished her well. Suddenly, out of the blue a man appeared between us, begging, “Ma’am, please. Can you spare some change? Please?” I was so shocked, I jumped and yelped. “Anne, open the door to your apartment.” She did and we rushed inside. We giggled nervously and hugged goodbye once and for all. Then I walked down the street and looked for a cab.
Now I’m home. It’s mid-August and it’s time for school to start again. Time for me to figure out what’s next.