Parents wait in the high school parking lot. Their faces are joyful, expectant, relieved. A couple of women stand outside their cars, shading their eyes and talking. A man reads his newspaper. A father and his son toss a baseball back and forth while a toddler runs between them, giggling. Squints jogs across the soccer field.
My cell phone rings. “Hello?”
Filibuster. Her voice is weary. The roar of the bus radio covers her words.
“I can’t hear you,” I shout. From the bus radio, I get the score of the baseball game and the weather report. She says something about traffic before she breaks the connection.
And so, we settle in to wait.
Just one week ago, we held on tearfully to our children, not quite ready to let them go; not quite believing that already they were leaving us.
Finally, the bus pulls into the driveway. Finally, they are home.
They get off the bus, tanned, thin, smiling and tired. While their parents wait, they linger, exchanging hugs, calling out tearful goodbyes, making plans for a summer reunion at a French restaurant, not quite ready for their adventure to be over.
My husband takes Filibuster’s suitcase. We get in the car. She asks what we did while she was gone. She talks all the way home, making us laugh with funny stories; making us cringe with the news of the pickpockets, the nosebleeds, the food poisoning, the second-floor hotel windows left open all night.
We pull into the driveway and head inside. She sets her suitcase on the floor and opens it. She takes out a French scarf and winds it around her neck. She shows us the dress she purchased and the leather bag. She hands V a movie and Squints a tee shirt. For me she’s brought a beautiful writing journal and for her father, a coffee mug from the Louvre.
My husband washes the cup, makes himself some coffee. He grabs a handful of pretzels to tide himself over until dinner and leans against the counter. I get out the cast iron pan and melt some butter.
“You should see the catacombs.”
My husband nods. Eats a pretzel.
“Some man picked up a skull.”
I rinse some lemon basil, picked just that morning at our CSA and cut it into ribbons.
“The Seine was pretty cool. But it’s polluted.”
“Did you take a boat?” I ask.
“Yeah. I put my hands in.”
I add the fish to the pan, grind some pepper on top. Add salt and fresh dill and turn the stove to low.
“We couldn’t go all the way up the Eiffel Tower. The top was closed. Want to see my pictures?”
“Maybe after dinner.” I cut up some lettuce and peel a couple of carrots.
Filibuster glances through her mail, looks around the house. “Home seems boring now. I’m used to being busy all the time.”
We eat a late dinner and do the dishes and my husband and I get our tennis shoes on.
“You’re talking a walk?” Filibuster says, as if surprised that, on the night she’s come home, we’d still go for our evening stroll. We head out the door, tripping over Filibuster’s suitcase.
In some small way, our daughter has changed and she’s not sure about how to fit back into her old life.
* * *
The day Filibuster took off for Paris, she left a basket of dirty laundry in the hallway. For three days, I tripped over that basket every time I went upstairs. Finally, I decided to take care of it: I picked it up and put it the center of her bedroom.
Some might say I was a bad mother; a mean mother for taking my daughter’s laundry to her room instead of sorting it out and washing it and folding it neatly upon her bed. But I have learned the lesson of the apricots.
I was senior in college when I went to Europe. Three weeks: Paris, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Zurich. In Paris, I acquired a taste for dried apricots and crusty bread. I remember calling my mother from the hotel in Switzerland, a few days before I headed home. Told her how much I was craving apricots. When my plane touched down and I reached home, I looked around expectantly for the apricots I was sure my mother had bought.
There were none.
My mother didn’t buy apricots.
I didn’t do Filibuster’s laundry.
Filibuster wanted to know what we were doing while she was gone. We missed our daughter terribly and we’re thrilled to have her back. But while she was off, we were busy cooking and cleaning and working and holding down the fort. We were maintaining a place—a boring place, perhaps—but a place filled with love and routine; a place she can call home when her debit card won’t work and she can’t get her voice mail.
* * *
The comparisons begin: “It wasn’t this hot in Paris,” Filibuster says. “The sun wasn’t this bright.”
Watching me make dinner, she remarks, “I’m craving a Nutella crepe.”
And later: “Do you know what time it is in Paris right now?”
Watching her look around the house, a dissatisfied look upon her face, I want to tell her that it’s the ordinariness of life that makes these adventures extraordinary. I want to tell her that there is a time to change, and a time to change your laundry. There is a time for apricots in Paris and there is a time to pitch in with the dishes. There is a time to talk and there is a time to listen and, yes, there will even be a time when you discover that your boring old parents are so much more than just your parents.
She wears the new French scarf as easily as she wears the arrogance of a new traveler. The arrogance that says, I’m different, or I’ve changed or even perhaps I’ve outgrown my parents.
But it’s just that arrogance that will give her the confidence to go out into the world, to make her way in this new and exciting territory. And it will be the lesson of the apricots that will rein in that arrogance with a tinge of humility and the realization that while she is changing…
So are we.
Labels: CSA, Daughters, Girls, Growing up, Perceptions, Raising Children