Yesterday Reilly and I attended a video call with Z’s teachers for her yearly IEP. We talked about her goals and progress. Her teachers seemed impressed with how well she’s doing with online school. It’s been almost a whole year. This week last year was when Utah decided to shut down schools for the rest of the school year, and my employer announced that we’d be working from home. This week last year we met with Z’s teachers on a Wednesday, and that following Friday the whole world changed. What a wild ride.

It’s probably easy to imagine a child–even one who has social delays–craving some kind of social contact beyond her parents. Even if we’re out running errands, Z will say, “Hi!” to a random child. To many random children. She will try to make friends. And we have to remind her about social distancing, even if everyone is wearing masks. Z’s teacher has said that her classmates (the ones attending in-person since the beginning of the school year) ask where she is all the time. Her name is on a desk, and it has been empty all year.

I had my weekly check-in meeting with my boss today. I told her about Z getting ready to attend school. I told her I had her practice unpacking her lunch. I told my boss about Z’s desk at school. She said that at the beginning there will probably be some separation anxiety, to which I quickly replied, “For me, probably not so much for her.” And my boss said, “Aww!”

Truth: it’s gonna be hard. After a 9 months of sitting by her and prompting her and waking her up in the mornings to do homework, I will have no easy time sending our baby off to school.

But like every other year she’s attended school in person, she’ll be amazing. And we’ll be proud parents.

Going Retro, A Week Ago

And they were off.
I prayed.
I’ll miss them.
They were going to be late.
“I don’t like this.”
“I’ll talk to you soon!”
I hugged one, then I hugged the other.
We pulled up to the terminal.
We listened to Ingrid Michaelson.
Nervous and hyper.
We seemed nervous and hyper in the car.
This took way too long. We might be late.
I pulled into a gas station to fill up.
We left right at 4:30am.
We got ready.
I warmed up the car. It was 43 degrees outside.
We got to bed late. I don’t know if we actually slept.
It’s not goodbye. I cried.
We ate our cake.
We wrestled. I didn’t win.
We headed back to the apartment.
My brother hugged me and transferred all his fidgeting to me.
My brother and I told childhood stories for my friends.
My brother fidgeted.
My brother told a story about necrophilic bacteria.
We ate at Biscotti’s. We ordered cake to go.
We watched Notting Hill.
I’ll miss them.
I told stories.
We drove to my old high school; my junior high; my old neighborhood.
We ate lunch at mom’s. Lumpia and pancit.
Instead of going to Sunday School.
We talked in the mothers’ lounge with one of my friends 
After the meeting, Mom found us. She apologized for … something.
We uncomfortably sat through most of sacrament meeting.
My heroes.
I made them attend 9:00am church with me.
We stayed up late.
We unloaded the car where I’d be staying.
We ate at Chili’s.
We visited Mom briefly. Mom explored social boundaries.
We arrived in Florida.
They wondered at Spanish moss.
It was cloudy and cold.
We walked around Savannah.
We almost missed seeing the Georgia state border sign.
I’ll miss them.
We ate at Sonic for a late lunch.
We skipped going to Myrtle Beach so we wouldn’t get to Florida too late.
We got stuck on the I-285 loop around Charlotte for an hour.
We ate a cute place called Le Peep for breakfast.
Waking up was fun. Being a morning person has its perks.
We got to bed late.
We tried making friends with a cat. Most of us.
We caught up with an old friend who let us stay the night.
We arrived in Charlotte after midnight.
(There were 12 of them, then 16? then 18?)
Then we picked up some medium-mini powdered donuts.
(some of us for the first time, and then just before it closed at 10pm)
Two hours north of Charlotte, we ate at Chick-Fil-A.
Traffic lightened up after 6pm.
And restrooms are  a part of covert ops.
We stopped at two Quantico 7-11s, where prices for drinks are classified, apparently.
Traffic barely moved for three hours.
No tax.
We then had Arby’s then Dairy Queen blizzards.
We got lost in a mall in Delaware before finding the food court.
We stayed on the turnpike way too long.
It rained.
My city.
I couldn’t look back.
I’ll miss them.
We prayed.
We were off.

The Gun Show

She arrived at my apartment building Monday around 11am, all set to move the last of what I’d be putting in storage. I told her what boxes to move and where to move them. The boxes weren’t very light, and some of the items were awkward to carry, but she shifted them around with ease, like one of those Mensa puzzles, except for the very strong. When she flexes her biceps, I get scared.

I pretty much just sat around and watched.

Her help cut the time to about a third of what it would have taken if I did the job by myself. I wonder if I could contract her to other parts of the country whenever I need help moving.

She came to Becky’s apartment one evening at the beginning of this year. This is my first memory of interacting with her. I didn’t know much about her, except that she was friends with someone whom I was just getting to know, but I instantly liked her, and I knew I’d be seeing her more; making a new friend. She said as she left that night that it was good meeting me, and that I made her laugh.

She was there later that winter, the night of our church singles speed dating activity, when I decided, in a deli/bakery on the Upper East Side, to spill my feelings and experience about my biological father. She offered to hug me, but I declined and told her a hug would only make me cry. I think I was surprised or scared at how much trust I was giving. I definitely was amazed at how attentive and sympathetic those girls were.

It was fun listening to her sing a song she’d written for a friend’s birthday.

It was an honor to take part in a secret birthday scheme for her.

We went to Wicked once. It was the day I lost my job, and a friend won two tickets at the lottery and gave one of them to me. I knew of her personality and passion and pure and refined talent, and I knew I’d get to know more, and it was nice to have someone nearby while Elphaba and Glenda distracted me that night.

We also went running in Central Park. We got tired after a mile or so, then we wandered through the Ramble and some lady who’d already passed us twice gave us a thumbs up as she passed us again, then we sprinted the last 100 yards and a couple of guys complimented us on our strong finish. We high-fived each other’s awesomeness.

She translated a week’s worth of scripture lesson plans for Girls Camp into Spanish for me. It was probably in world-record time.

She’s quick to serve.

She has a strong sense of justice.

She’s always offering hugs, and she’s generous with her time. It has meant a lot to me.

She sometimes makes jokes that takes a while for people to get.

She’s righteous, but she can also drop it like it’s hot.

She’s all over the place. She’s perfect that way.

If she weren’t training for a marathon and didn’t know how to box, maybe I could kick her butt. Maybe.

Also? Jazz. This girl is a wonder on the trumpet. You don’t even know.

Get her started on politics or capitalism or international affairs.

Ask her about the man she loves.

I said goodbye to her this morning. I hugged her with all the gratitude and love in my heart. I took her friendship, her listening, her loyalty and dedication to goodness, her humor, everything that is beautiful and true about her with the hugs she gave me. Hugs I could not decline.

So what if I cry?

Worlds of Empty

I’ve finished getting ready for church and preparing my primary lesson. I hear stirring in the girls’ bedroom. I’ve been sitting on the couch, fidgeting, pretending to read, waiting to leave for church. Law school. I finally enter the bedroom and get a pair of shoes for church from the closet. I tell her she can’t leave; we’re about to bind and gag her. She only laughs. There’s appropriation of leftover food and bathroom supplies. I mean, I already have 500 cotton swabs, but I certainly could use another 100. For little projects. I joke like that, because I don’t want to cry. Defense mechanism on overdrive. She says it’s been really fun and she’s had a good summer. And I say, you really think so? and I have the biggest smirk on my face, but I know and feel deep down my summer was pretty fabulous, too. She acknowledges I have to leave for church soon, and I know I can’t talk because once I start talking I’ll have to stop because crying will rudely interrupt me. She says she’ll see me around. Tears fill my eyes, but all I can do is outstretch my arms, and she agrees to give me a hug. Because that kind of a thing really does require her permission. We hug and I leave the bedroom and I gather my things. I grab a tissue from my bag and take a deep breath. I know she and Becky need a few moments together; they’re high school friends, you know. On my way out the door I tell her to behave herself, and she says she’ll try. I don’t tell her I’ll miss her, even though I will. I don’t tell her she’ll have a great experience in law school. I don’t thank her for being my friend or all those fun IM conversations while being in the living room at the same time or being such a good listener or going to the beach with me or sitting through horrible movies with me or making scotcheroos. But I do. And she knows I do. I will always thank her.