Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Mathematics of Departure


One week ago, there were 14 people sharing this cottage on the lake. The air was charged with the energy of family re-gathering, the anticipation of long summer days on the beach and canoeing on the back lake and hiking through the woods and taking the trip into town for ice cream and shopping. The bustle in the small kitchen, the toasts at the long dinner table, the sitting out on the deck for the ritual farewell to the sun dropping into the pristine waters of Lake Michigan, the evening Charades game. The yelps of the one-year old, the screams of delight and protest of the 4-year old, the dogs begging to be let in the house. The deck rails hung with towels and bathing suits and the indoor clutter gaining mass and volume, the inevitable “Has anyone seen my…?” and the miracle that it would actually eventually appear.

And then one by one, or two by two, or four by four, they began to depart. More space, less clutter, different dynamics. Last night, I drove the Taylors—my daughter, husband and two grandchildren— to the airport and bid them a sad, loving farewell, turned back to drive through torrential rain to the five remaining people and arrived in time to answer the phone and discover that the flight was cancelled and my daughter’s family needed to rent a car to drive to Chicago the next day and would be back with us for one more night soon. So the extra treat of seeing them all again and getting to watch The Parent Trap video with Zadie, feed Malik oatmeal this morning and feel the satisfaction that he no longer squirms out of my arms begging for Mama. One week with Pop-pop and Mi-ma was enough to re-establish the relationship.

But at 7:30 this morning, Karen’s brother’s family left, then the Taylors and also the old family friends in the cottage next door. Now it’s down to two. Weather permitting, I leave this afternoon and Karen will stay awhile longer to enjoy the fruits of her retirement—no need to rush back to school anymore. The house is empty in all the senses of that word— a Zen-like feeling of tranquility with space and silence, but also a bit of hollowness without the squeals and laughter and convivial conversation.

It’s a rainy, blustery day, no farewell swim in the lake for me and some increased anxiety about my afternoon flight getting off the ground. But a good time to finish my book by an Icelandic author and organize my mailing list e-mails. Always something to do and still a beautiful place to do it all in.

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