By Wendy Hodge
This has been a rough week. My best friend, who is solid and steady, has really been through the wringer. He has a stressful job in the midst of a pandemic. He’s having work done on his house, so there are plumbers and painters and contractors coming in and out every day of the week. He’s a parent – with three teenage girls. Need I say more? Don’t get me wrong, his girls are sweet and lovely and fun. But they are also a bundle of hormones and drama and challenges. And, as all kids do, they are testing his autho – ity and pushing to see how far his limits will stretch. There have been some sleepless nights lately.
So on this Friday night, my best friend and I sit on the couch and stare at the TV, exhausted. Changing the channel is about all we have the strength to handle. I don’t think we really tasted our dinner. And then the phone rings, and it is my daughter. She has called to tell me about her day at work, her plans for the summer and about her car trouble. She graduates from college in just over a month. We talk for a bit. When I hang up, my best friend is smiling at me.
“How is she?” he asks.
“She’s fine,” I answer. “Busy. I can’t believe she is graduating from college soon.”
My best friend is quiet, and I know he is pondering the future and his own children’s path to adulthood. Later I am exhausted, but sleep won’t come. In a trunk under the bed is a collection of thoughts and memories and stories that I have written down over the last decades. I search until I find this – it is dated exactly four years earlier.
Today is not a special day. It is a Tuesday. It’s raining, but I’m told the sun will be out later.
Like countless other mornings, I awake to the quiet of a small apartment, two dogs breathing in my ear. If I move, they will be up and ready to charge into the day. I wait, enjoying the stillness, and I just listen as other noises filter in. The shower running in the apartment above … the Today Show on down below … a muffled cough from the neighbor next door.
Soon my daughter will stir. I’ll hear her feet, in her fuzzy striped socks, shuffle into the kitchen. She’ll stand befor the toaster, still in a fog of unfinished sleep, and wait for a bagel or a piece of toast … my bread-loving, sweetly beautiful, on the verge of adulthood girl child. My Abbey.
How many more mornings before her days start somewhere else, in some other room?
I listen for the water running and know she’s begun her transformation from sleeping child to lovely high school senior. There will be the hum of the blow dryer, the spritzing and spraying of hair products and the subtle swish of makeup brushes.
As the clock ticks on, there will be a crescendo of movement … searching for the book from last night’s late-night studying, the bang of a pair of shoes being rejected and thrown back into the depths of the closet and the dragging of an always heavy backpack from floor to bed.
There is a constant background of music to our mornings. The songs change from week to month, a revolving soundtrack of her changing perspectives. Her voice blends in occasionally, and it never fails to make even the dogs stop and listen. Her voice is a lovely voice.
Just as soon as I’m certain she’ll be late for school, her door will open. The smell of honeysuckle shampoo and sweet perfume will drift behind her as she stops for a quick hug and a “Love you” thrown over her shoulder. The front door will click, and the silence will be back. Silence has a sound too, all its own.
If there was a huge scoreboard in the air with tally marks on the left showing the number of ordinary, already-spent mornings and marks the right, showing the mornings remaining before there is a new ordinary without the symphony of Abbey, the right side would be more than I could bear.
So I won’t count them, those unwrapped mornings. I will open each one slowly, attentively and with the gratitude that such a singular, profoundly lovely “ordinariness” deserves.
It’s raining now, but I’m told the sun will be out later.
The next day, I show this to my best friend as we stand in the backyard looking at the daylilies that we know are almost ready to bloom. We have cared for those lilies. We’ve watered and fed and protected and loved them. And the days since we first planted them have raced by in such a flash.
He takes my hand and says, “One day soon, we’ll walk out here and they’ll be beautiful, growing just like they should be.” I know he’s right and that we’re not talking about lilies anymore.
“Aren’t we lucky to be here for it all?” I ask.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” is his reply.