They said the second time around was going to be easier. They said that having another empty room would encourage me to fill my time with things I love.
Problem is, I love my daughter, and now she is gone.
I admit it. Another daughter, barely off to college, and I was wallowing. Unprepared for the mess, I choke on my last sip of coffee. Not that I expected her to clean up her room before she left. It was a whirlwind final week picking up last minute pharmacy items, closing bank accounts, printing out pictures, triple checking her packing list (well my packing list).
My daughter was not an organized person, often with her head in the clouds. This is what I have always loved about her. Yet, standing in her room now, feels like I have walked onto a battlefield, the remains of her eighteen years strewn mercilessly across the floor.
From inside her closet, cleats caked with mud from her last varsity soccer game call out to me. I move in to get a closer look. Like it was yesterday, I recall my own excitement playing soccer, the scars I used to collect upon my body like battle wounds. How did we get here so quickly?
On the floor, a clump of mud momentarily irritates me. All those times I had asked to leave her muddy cleats in the garage, and the same number of times I was ignored. Teenage rebellion. Or was it simply distraction that led her to defy my requests – cell phones and boys did that to her.
Turning away from her t-shirts, each holding a memory of summer camp, road trips and sports teams, I walk back to her bed where her bookcase headboard resembles a display of offerings at a second hand rummage sale. Old nail polish, eight bottles; half of them dried and caked. An unwrapped newly bought phone case and a half used bottle of saline nasal spray rests upon a notebook filled with rainy day doodles.
Dumping this, tossing that. I gain the courage to look behind her bed. Among a mess of garbage, I find her promposal poster and recall her pale shoes offsetting her blood red dress. Undeveloped prom pictures sit idle on my cell phone, reminding me of all my unfinished to do lists. Perhaps I will get to them later today, or next year.
For now, I am too busy hearing the laughter, recalling the feeling of prom night with its fairy tale moments. How we so often measure time in seemingly endless nights, thinking it will never end.
I have had enough – wallowing, and cleaning. I am about to leave it all a mess when I stumble over something.
On the floor, I pick up my favorite drawstring bag – borrowed and never returned. I sling it across my back, taking with it the contents of two half filled water bottles and a few hair bands. On my way out, I catch a glimpse above her door of the bumper sticker she had bought freshman year of high school.
“Do Something Amazing.”
While brewing a much needed second cup of coffee, I click on our latest string of text messages. How could she forget so many things? Today I am thankful for social media and my daughter. In her memory, as the ultimate recycler, I open and begin dumping the water into the plant. Proud of myself, I think, I’m not wasting water, Lia.
As it empties, a familiar smell begins to permeate the air. I stop pouring, albeit way too late. I would know that smell anywhere. At a fraternity house, late night bar crawl, or just before the last song at a wedding.
In this moment, I have two thoughts. I can’t believe I have just watered my plant with a vodka filled Dasani bottle. And, can plants get drunk? #AskingForAFriend
My son, barely ten years old wanders into the room as I am wiping away my tears of laughter. I glance at the plant. I could swear it just hiccupped. I wonder if it will sing bad Karaoke or drink and dial. Maybe it will just sit and chat for hours about nothing, and everything. I hide the lampshades nearby, just in case.
“What’s so funny, mom?”
Yes, I still have him keeping me honest, as that is one of his strengths, to tell it like it is. I dump the rest of the vodka/water bottles in the sink, and toss a bottle of Advil near the plant, just in case. As I walk the half-filled black garbage bag out to the street, I notice I feel better.
Laughter is the best medicine.
While it doesn’t feel right tossing her life memories, I know these are just things. I welcome the cliché that I will carry her laughter in my heart, feel her bear hugs on my skin and bring up the image in my mind of her blond curls and dimpled smile whenever I choose.
Glancing upward, I notice the sun’s stark contrast moving out the last bit of black cloud above my head. Yes, I think I will be just fine.
That night, I sit by my plant – just in case. I mean who will hold back her leaves if need be? No need for cranberry juice. We share a toast with the rest of the watered down vodka from our liquor cabinet.
After all, today, I did something amazing. Through tears and laughter, I let my daughter go.