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Going Going Gone
Going, Going, Gone.
For the first time, I woke up knowing what was coming. I stared at the bright red numbers blinking 3:30am back at me, and wished that I could turn back time. Careful not to wake my sister, I got up and got dressed. The sounds of my mom packing her things drifted into my room. Not knowing exactly what to do, I sat on my bed and waited until she came in.
“Hey sweetie,” she half-whispered.
“Hey, mom.” I replied. I watched as she walked softly around my room and picked up her things. Her brush, her perfumes, her shoes, her clothes… Each little piece of her she took up and dropped into the suitcase.
Then, with a sigh, she went into the bathroom to wash up. I sat there, letting the bluish light of my bathroom break the darkness. I wondered what I could say or do, to make these final moments with her last. But I found myself thinking about how time changes people, and even relationships. Time steals away memories, and inevitably making everything unfamiliar.
Like my mom’s face, I noted to myself. Her once bright eyes were now faded from ten years of time and nicotine. I used to look into those bright eyes when I was a little girl.
“Mommy,” I used to say. “Your eyes are green and orange!”
She would smile and say something about how they changed color. Time changed the orange and green into a dull brown. I watched her from my bed. I watched as she hid herself under blue eye shadow and eyeliner and mascara. I watched as something someone helped to make in a factory was being slathered onto my mother’s face, drop by drop pulling her farther and farther away-as if time had maliciously decided that its deed wasn’t done yet. All of a sudden, despite my own girly makeup collection, I hated that crap. I hated that she was decorating herself with it. I wanted to snatch it away and let it take her place on the plane that would fly her thousands of miles away from me…
She saw me watching her and gave a sad half smile in the mirror, and I knew that my face gave away what I was thinking.
“Renee’, what’s wrong?” She asked.
“Oh, nothing,” and I looked down before she could see me cry, pretending that something else had suddenly captured my attention.
When she was finished she came out of the bathroom and put her makeup case into her bag. I watched her get dressed and get ready to go. I didn’t speak, but let the continuous sound of zippers zipping and clothes shuffling and sighs fill the silence.
Really, what could be said? I knew that we were both were thinking the same things. I spent almost my whole life living with my grandparents because my parents couldn’t take care of us. Finally, she comes to visit after four years and here she is-leaving again. She didn’t ask for this, and I didn’t either. That’s one of the reasons why it hurt so much.
After a while my grandpa let us know that it was almost time to leave so my mom wouldn’t miss her flight. Mom tiptoed to my brother’s room and gave them good-bye kisses. She reminded them that she was leaving and that for the first time in a week she wouldn’t be there when they woke up. Since they were half asleep, they didn’t know what was going on, and when she walked out they just feel asleep again. She came back into my room to give my sister a kiss, and I carefully shut the door.
We went outside to the car and I helped my mom put her suitcase in the trunk. I climbed in the car, and she slid in next to me.
As we pulled off, I laid my head on her and she held me close. We spoke about school- my high school and her college classes. We chatted about her visit, and she told me she would miss us. I knew she was holding back. But that’s okay, because she’s being strong. Despite everything she’s gone through- having her kids taken from her, having to work long hours to save up money to come and see us, and being on her own to fight, she never gave up. So even though I knew that her heart was breaking right there beside me in the car, she didn’t shed a single tear.
I took in everything I could. I tried to remember her motherly softness, and the smell of her perfume. She smelled like muffled warm vanilla brown sugar, like she wore the scent so much that it became a part of her skin. I ran my fingers through tendrils of her wavy hair, and she smiled. Even as a little girl, I loved to play in her hair. We stopped speaking and let the soft music from the radio that my grandpa was playing fill the silence.
When we finally got to the airport, my grandpa smoothly pulled into the drop-off lane. I got out of the car with her, and helped her with her suitcase.
This was it. In that one moment where we stood looking at each other, we shared something. Though nothing was being said, everything was being said. I knew that as the oldest she trusted me to look after my brothers and sister. I knew that it was hard for her to leave us, and though I was fifteen, inside I felt like a little girl again. I wanted to scream and beg, “Mommy, please please don’t go!!”
But I know I can’t. I’m not five years old anymore.
Finally, we embraced each other and whispered our goodbyes. I started to cry, but then stopped myself. The second I broke, she would probably break too. I won’t let that happen. We stood there for a few moments before she pulled away. She headed to the door, waving, and I got back into the car, waving. Through the window, I saw her place one foot in front of the other. Left right, left, right, left, right… and through the doors as our car slowly pushed forward and left her behind.
With a burning chest, I placed my head against the cold window and stared out into the dark.
“Bye,” I whispered as the salty tears trickled down my face. I knew she couldn’t hear me, but as ridiculous as it was, I hoped that the emotion behind my words would somehow find her and wrap itself around her heart, so she’ll know that I was saying goodbye.
The ride back home was different. Riding to the airport I was holding on-savoring as much of my mother as I could. But riding back home was me letting go. Not letting go completely, but letting go enough to move forward.
When we got back home and I got out the car, I went to my grandpa and while choking back tears I thanked him for letting me come on the ride to the airport.
“I wouldn’t keep you from telling your mom goodbye,” he replied. And with that he put his arm around me and hugged me for a second, which was new. He never hugged me. But with that hug he comforted me and let me know that he was there.
He unlocked the house door, and I quietly headed to my room. When I walked into my room, through the darkness something caught my eye. A few days ago, my mom had given me a khaki jacket that was too small for her. I was ecstatic, because it was something of hers and I knew that I would miss her when she was gone again. I put my pajamas back on, dropped my parting clothes on the floor, and after grabbing the jacket I buried myself under my blankets.
I cuddled the jacket, and as the sobs finally fought their way up out of me, I breathed in the last hints of warm vanilla brown sugar before it faded away.