Meeting Again and Again

We thought about pulling over somewhere along the way in the central coast of California and changing into our bathing suits so that we could roll up my parents’ driveway, jump out of the car, and run straight into the hot tub. A grand reunion requires a grand entrance, doesn’t it?

We didn’t. We were tired and buried in road trip kid crumbs and we actually ended up feeling a little bit shy somehow. So we knocked on the door. And my parents answered and we slowly approached one another for long-awaited hugs and then sat around the dining room table and, not with our words, but with our bodies, said, “Hi, remember me?” 

The older I get, the more I realize that my relationship with my parents--especially my mom--is a continual experience of re-meeting one another. It’s been that way since I left the house. When I came back from college that first summer, high and mighty on sociological study and fragile with insecurity, I was obscure even to myself, but urgently demanded that they see me accurately. When I got my first book deal, I came home for weeks at a time, typing away at my laptop feverishly while they slid sandwiches under my nose; at night we would sit together in the backyard in Santa Fe and watch the sunset in the giant Georgia O’Keefe sky. That was a gentler way and time of saying, See me now, too. When I had a monumental break-up, when I got married, when I became a mother...always these moments of coming home and saying, See me now, too

And me, all the while, trying to see them anew. Their transitions. Their moves. Their aging process. Their losses. Their adaptations. Their love, which started (for him) in a 6th grade classroom and continues (for them both) over six decades later.

This constant re-meeting felt particularly poignant this time. And not just for me and my parents, but for all of us. My 7-year-old can read and do multiplication now. Her string bean legs just grow and grow. She beat her grandma mercilessly in Uno and melted into her body on the couch, all the while her whole being beamed with, She sees me! 

My 4-year-old has a new favorite song: Annie Lennox’s “Sweet Dreams,” and an urgent need to get on a boat and see the sea lions and sea otters up close. She loves to scold or scare her grandpa, who she calls Didop; anything to get his hyperbolic reaction and confirmation: he sees me!

I’ve learned to cook this year so I fed my parents shashuka and white bean ragu and roasted gnocchi. See me?

My mom has discovered a rare kind of curated joy on Twitter. She sends dispatches to all of her friends of the latest and greatest material from a pseudonymous account called Dutchess Goldblatt (“Awake at almost midnight on a weeknight like a goddamn Olympian.”) See me?

We never see each other perfectly, of course. Because what would a lineage of women be without a whole heap of projections and insatiable hungers? But we keep trying, keep folding each new version in, keep letting ourselves be surprised and disappointed and madly in love. This pandemic year has made this all the more poignant, all the more stark. We’ve all been to places in our own souls that we never knew before and now we’re coming back together to re-draw the outlines of one another. 

My friend, artist Wendy MacNaughton, does this exercise where she has you draw someone’s face without looking down at your paper. It’s terrifying and usually results in some wild mess that somehow always carries the essence of the person in front of you, even if the eye is on top of the ear and the hair squiggles off the page. Reuniting is like that--an exercise in studying one another close--attention, of course, being the ultimate act of love--and trusting the creative process of staying a family over all the years. Even the really, really bad ones.    

 

*Re-meeting one another (aka growing older with our families and communities) should not be a racial privilege, but in this country, it still is. Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black father, son, and friend, was murdered by police this week. Donate here to support his family.