My daughters are coming home to Michigan next week. In 2006 my Michigan kid, Mary, moved to Brooklyn, NY. The same year, my Spain kid, Jenny, who swore she would never darken these shores again, landed in Brooklyn as well. And I sat here in Ann Arbor thinking, “Huh?” They spent their whole lives in southeast Michigan. What’s with New York? It’s been two years since they visited Michigan due to their busy lives.
I’m always surprised when my girls sound excited to see the old haunts again. Their growing up years were not a continuous party. Dealing with their parents divorce, schlepping back and forth –trying to passify both of us. Me in a somewhat continual state of depression. Couldn’t have been all fun. But excited they are. Apparently, they managed to build good memories in spite of their mixed up family life.
I think I know why they like their Midwestern home. For them, it was memories of childhood, weekends on Dad’s farm, being a teen, having friends, keeping up with current city stuff – the best of both worlds. I remember such a fuss when in junior high, they went to see the New Kids on the Block. Weeks of excitement. Then first dates. Prom nights. Most of all, the friends they made over the years.
Living with a split family wasn’t all that bad for them, I guess. With me, they had the city, the friends, the school activities, the rock concerts. With their dad, they had the farm, the horses, the dogs, the cats. They would come home Sunday night so dusty or muddy, it took all evening to scrub them up for Monday. During the week, we fought the good fight with challenging teachers, bullying kids, and just growing up. In that time, the great moments were when the school musical curtain went up or a track meet was won. When we needed to de-stress, it was a movie and popcorn or our ever present “art creations” table.
In those days, I was the parent.
In the five years they have been away, I have schlepped my plus-60 body over to Brooklyn twice a year. Same route, same routine. Catch Delta, four pm-ish to get there when they leave work, grab a cab at LaGuardia, make three phone calls to one daughter or another to help the driver find Brooklyn, hugs at the door.
From airport to airport and into the boroughs, I would get four other phone calls. “How was the flight? Are you here yet? Where are you? Did you bring the address for the driver?” If I venture out on a bus to the Brooklyn Book Festival, or shuffle three blocks to the market, it’s, “Did you find it? Are you ok in the crowds? Watch out for the Dollar cars – they could kill you.” If I miss a bus stop, one of them is at the bus door, staring at me. I hear, “Where have you been!” I always feel a great sense of accomplishment when I make it to Peck’s Homemade coffee shop and back in the morning without a nervous call from one of them. Granted, my knees don’t like the subway stairs, and I am not good in crowds, but I often feel like the child –their child. “You need a motorized scooter, Mom,” they say. “Go ahead,” I say, “ buy me one.”
“You do a lot better in Michigan where you have your car and your safe little neighborhood,” they tell me. Tell me about it, I thought.
So for years, I was the protector, the advisor, the cook and bottle washer, the nurturer. They gradually grew out of my mothering and now, in recent years, I have become the child.
Next week, though, when I pick them up at Detroit Metro, the playing field levels. We will all be grownups.