I just had such a sweet experience that I had to share it with you. One of my daughters went skiing for the weekend, she lives in LA, and I volunteered to baby sit for her very elderly 15 year old dog. And tonight, someone had to meet her at the airport between two flights, to bring her dog for the trip back to LA. I started a book yesterday, and usually when I write, I don’t leave my office (or my home) until I finish. I don’t get dressed (I wear warm old nightgowns with sweaters over them—not a pretty sight, but cozy on cold nights), I don’t go out, I don’t see anyone, I often don’t even read phone messages. I just lock myself up until I finish the first draft, because if I stop, I lose the thread of the book (or I think I will), so I stay home and stick with it. I make very rare exceptions except for emergencies (as I used to tell my secretaries, warning them not to interrupt me: that means there has to be fire or blood involved), but I usually try to plan my writing schedule when there won’t be interruptions, other obligations, or family events (I often squeeze a book between 2 kids birthdays, or write before or after a holiday like Christmas or Thanksgiving. I plan my writing schedule long in advance). And suddenly tonight, after I’d started the book yesterday, I knew that someone had to take my daughter’s dog to the airport, where she had a two hour layover on her way back to LA. Two hours. At the San Francisco airport. Only twenty minutes away. Although someone else could have done it, the temptation was just too great. I don’t see enough of her, and we love being together. Although SF and LA aren’t very apart, between her work and mine, and my frequent trips to Paris, and all the books I write, we really have a hard time seeing each other more than once every couple of months, which just isn’t enough. I have an easier time seeing my two daughters in NY, because I always stop there for the night, to see them, on my way back and forth to Paris. But for some reason, probably because we’re both so busy, LA is just harder to arrange. When I’m free, she isn’t, or vice versa, or she gets a freelance job at the last minute (she’s a fashion stylist, consultant and editor, busy life), and it’s hard to work out. But tonight she was going to be so close. And book or not, there was no way I was going to miss a chance to give her a hug.
So despite the book, and my self-imposed isolation, I got dressed and went to the airport, and took the dog, and it was such a thrill to see her bounce out of the airport after her ski weekend. (Even though I lent her ski clothes she made fun of!! But wore anyway. She had the nerve to call them ‘vintage’!!! My favorite ski suits imagine that!!) She climbed into my car, and we spent an hour and a half talking and laughing and gossiping, and chuckling, and having a good time, talking about nothing in particular, and enjoying each other, and even hugging and holding hands, and trying to figure out when we can next see each other. It was just perfect, and really fun, and I was so happy I had decided to go out to the airport, and not worry about the book!! She is sooooo MUCH more important than a book, all of my kids are!!!
The moment came at last when she had to check in for her next flight, and I walked her into the airport with a lump in my throat and an ache in my heart. I hated to see her leave. The little time we had together had been so sweet. We hugged about five more times at the entrance to security, and I reached out for just one more. And then she went through security with her carry-on and her dog. I had tears in my eyes. She’s in her 20’s, but they remain our babies forever, no matter how grown up they are. As I stood gazing at her going through security, like a watchful mother hen, an incredibly grumpy security man told me to move away (as though I was a threat to airport security, waving at my daughter, a harmless woman with tears in her eyes.) I stepped aside, blew a few more kisses and waved again, and that really pissed him off, scowling at me he told me to move far away, and pointed to a distant corner, where I could still see her through the glass wall. He must have had a really bad day, or a miserable life. In any case, I moved, and found myself standing next to a Greek man, waving just as frantically at his daughter, who looked about the same age. “Your daughter?” He asked me and I said yes, “Me too,” he said, “she lives in Vancouver”. I told him mine lived in LA. And the two of us were waving and blowing kisses at our two girls, who were blowing kisses and waving back. I was suddenly reminded of leaving her on the first day of school in Kindergarten, or standing mesmerized at the window of the hospital nursery where they are so brand new. Nothing had changed. We loved them just as much, and seeing them leave was clearly hard for both of us and our girls. (My family travels a lot, as do I and I normally don’t go to airports to see them off, but this special moment was like a gift when I could have an hour or two with my daughter in the midst of her travels, when I might not see her for another month or two). “They’ll always be our babies”, the man commented next to me, and we chatted then about how old they are, what they do for work, how often we see them, as we continued to wave through the glass wall, and our girls continued to wave back. And then finally, they passed to the other side of security and we couldn’t see them anymore. I saw that the man had the same tears in his eyes that I did, and surely the same lump in his throat, as his daughter disappeared. “Good luck”, he said wistfully, and we shook hands…..good luck with watching them grow up….saying goodbye….watching them leave…..standing in an airport all alone, and wishing you could turn the clock back to another time, when they still lived at home, and you never had to say goodbye. I went back to my car and drove home, thinking how lucky I was to have these precious moments with a child I love, and how blessed I am when I see them, for however little time and far too seldom, living in different cities now from several of them. That 90 minutes of hugging and talking and laughing today really was a gift, an island of joy in a turbulent world. And all I could think was Thank God, I stopped working and went to the airport to see her, even for a short time, even if it slows the flow of “genius” for an hour or two—who cares??? I was so grateful for that time with my daughter, and that I’d been smart enough to seize it, with the excuse of taking her dog. The Greek man I chatted with had the same feeling I did, of how lucky we were. Such tiny precious moments…..I will never forget them, they go in a memory book of motherhood and get tucked deep into my heart. And on the way home, she texted me from the plane, and felt the same way I did, of how lucky we had been to have those precious moments today…..I smiled through my tears when I read it…..what a beautiful day.