This is the same story as told in: “It’s Been Five Days Since You Left, But We’re Still Here and You’re Not and It Is So Quiet.” But, I sought help from Kevin McGeehan and this is how it evolved. I just wanted to put it out into the world beyond the one storytelling event I was brave enough to enter. Which was my event. I produced it. So, not really all that brave.
A different take on the same event:
There are six of us in this tiny space: proud grandparents, anxious parents, Hannah-the-Freshman, and Talia-the-supportive-little-sister who is singlehandedly organizing what appears to be a closet. Everyone is shoving “necessary” items wherever they could fit, except for me. Overwhelmed by debilitating fear I am useless in this chaotic room. I just stand in the middle of chaos clutching my favorite pair of Hannah’s shoes. All motherly devotion seems irrationally transferred onto these shoes.
I’m jolted out of my inertia when Hannah’s new roommate, Christine, suddenly pitches into the room, drunk. Christine, all tanned boobs and short shorts squeals “HANNAH!!!” and lunges forward on her stiletto’s to give Hannah an insincere hug. Christine is the embodiment of every parental nightmare: a partying freshman roommate. The predator.
Not knowing what to do, I do what I do best. Freeze. This is not my first time lost in motherhood.
When Hannah was a week old she got an audition for a commercial. At the time, we were actor’s living in L.A. Hannah booked the job and at ten days old shot a national commercial.
She was adorable during the casting: alert, quiet. Perfect. On the day of the shoot though, she wouldn’t stop screaming. I didn’t know what to do, I just stood there, frozen, listening to her cry and wincing at every dirty look from…everyone.
After what felt like a few years had passed, the director called to “remove the crier.” A surely assistant director handed her over like a bag of squid. I grabbed her, ran out into the hallway and clutching her to my chest begged her to forgive me. I didn’t rescue her. I’m the Mom and I blew it. When her gasping sobs stopped, I held her out to look at her scrunched up little face.
I swear she smiled at me. I stopped breathing for a second. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. “I promise I will never leave you.” I swore this would be my last mistake as Mom.
18 years of mistakes later, the day has come to move out of her childhood home into her freshman dorm. On the sidewalk in front of our house, a sobbing Hannah could not let go of Andrew, the-stunned-soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend. About to attend universities in separate states, it didn’t look good for the long run.
Hannah and Andrew dated during their senior year and, of course, he asked her to the prom. Hannah bought her dress with her own money, a sparkling, soft pink, strapless gown. It cost four times what I was willing to pay for a prom dress.
I bought her shoes, and because Andrew is not tall, Hannah, in a shocking turn from her usual CFM’s was determined to wear flats. We found a pair of Steve Madden sandals with rhinestones imbedded in clear plastic straps and a beige plastic sole. They looked pretty cheap in the box. But when she put them on the clear plastic straps disappeared and the sparkles wrapped around her feet as if held on by magic. They were the most beautiful shoes I’ve ever seen.
I borrowed them once. I felt magical. For a moment, Hannah and I shared these pretty, pretty shoes. In a moment, I must relinquish the girl with the memory of a sweet dance in beautiful shoes with a handsome boy.
Back in the dorm room the magic shoes seem cemented in my fist. The perfect place to leave them doesn’t exist. Christine might want to borrow them. Christine could ruin the shoes.
Of the two girls who are about to live in this dorm, I love one so very much, but I relate to one of them so much more. I was Christine when I was 18. I know this enemy. It used to be me.
Without looking at anyone other than Hannah, Christine slurs “Nice to meet you” to the room in general and is gone as fast as she came. Watching Christine leave I realize I have no control over this situation. I probably have never had control over any situation ever. Because I am only Mom. Not God.
18 years ago I had no idea she would be the one to leave.
I step on the printer to climb over the mini-refrigerator and sit next to her on the long, single bed. I reluctantly hand her our pretty, pretty shoes. “Please. Stay. Strong. Do not lend these to Christine. I would like to see them again.” Hannah just laughs, “Mom, the shoes and I can both stand up to Christine.”
Our time is almost up. “If you ever need anything Hannah, you can always come crying to me. I think I’m ready for you now.“
Out in parking lot the proud grandparents drive away first. The sobbing, mascara stained sisters cling to each other as our existing world changes forever. There is nothing my husband and I can do to ease the pain of their separation. We can only stand aside and watch. What I want to say to my pair of beautiful girls is, “I promise I will learn to let you go.”
What I actually say as I hug Hannah goodbye, “Take your vitamins and be gentle when you break up with Andrew.”
College, it’s the real world transition for the parents, not just the kids.