Before anybody left, I said, "Group hug!" and we all got into this big Carpenter huddle with our arms around each other's shoulders. I was engulfed in the largeness of my family, both corporately and individually (my head barely crests Jon's shoulder). We hunkered in all close to each other, feeling the love, and then Shawn started praying. I can't even remember what he prayed, but by the end we were pretty much all snuffling, and even DJ had to pull his sunglasses over his eyes as he extracted from the embrace.
We did frantic pictures, trying to capture memories that we crave with a starving kind of hunger.
Don't you just love Jonno's argyle socks?
And Lulubelle's spiffy running shoes?
And the way DJ clutches his sunglasses?
And Shanny's braids?
The mama and the papa on the front porch.
Shannon lost her bank card, and I, I found it. I, who never find anything. There was much rejoicing and amazement. (I may or may not have done an inelegant dance.)
DJ and Lulubelle left first; he drove her back because the Amtrak wouldn't have gotten her in until 3 a.m. and she needed to work in the morning. His jaunty little old sand-colored Corolla turned the corner at the stop sign, onto Pinegate, and we waved, blowing kisses. It was sad, but Shannon was still by our sides. We would see DJ in a couple of days again, and Lulubelle at the beginning of August in our new home.
Shawn and Jonathan worked on putting the tent back into the tent box. Shannon and I went to Target to get her a new billfold for keeping track of her bank card. Afterwards, she and I toured the house together and took a few more frantic, desperate pictures:
There is so much pathos here, so much childhood remembered.
It was time for Shannon to go.
She was a real hero. She smiled big and hugged us, and we hugged her back tight. I packed up a Styrofoam cooler with leftover party food for her to take home. She got into her little gray car, turned it around with a five point turn, and like her brother, drove jauntily down the road, waving, turning right at the stop sign. One last time.
One last time.
I watched and waved until I couldn't see her anymore, trying to memorize the sight, catalog it forever in my feeble mind. Then her car was out of view. I began to drown in salty tears and a massively runny nose. Sometimes it is very hard to breathe.
We returned the tent, the chairs, the tables, the roasters. We dropped Jon off at the grad party of one of his school friends.
When we got home, just the two of us, Shawn said, "I am going to get into my pool and go for a swim, because this is one of the last times I'm going to have a pool to swim in."
So he and I swam on that hot, humid evening while the sun set. As the sky darkened we could see into the lighted windows on the back of our house. Lulu's room with the yellow stripes she painted. The warm maple cabinets in the kitchen. The collage of graduation pictures on the family room wall. I thought back to other evening swims when I had looked in at my kids watching a television show, or afternoon swims when Schubert had perched, concerned, on the back of the sectional to keep an eye on our safety.
I thought what a dream it has been to live here, a strange surreality, a Minnesota girl transplanted into the east, never quite belonging but coping and learning and making friends, building a life. I thought of how I'd never even dreamed of having a pool, and here we've had one, all our own, for a season... and enjoyed it! I watched the sun set between the trees, close, one block to the west, a fiery ball sinking in pink sky between black, leafy branches. I wondered if I will feel more like myself in the midwest, after we move, and if this life we have lived in New York will seem like it wasn't even real at all, a dream interlude, nothing but the time I raised my brood.
And then the mosquitoes came out, and we went inside and got back to work. There are 1,000,001 things to do.