Parting is such sweet sorrow

#468 in a series of true experiences in real estate
September 2004, Hills Newspapers

My darling daughter Annie left me. She fell in love and moved from home to live with him, a young man she has known only briefly. It’s a shock.
Of course I knew that she’d go one day. She is now 19. But she was living at home and going to school, and I had hoped that she’d stay another year. Instead, in a flurry, she quit school, got a job as a waitress, and found an apartment where she and her love have now set up housekeeping.

His name is Jake, a handsome young fellow of 20, with whom Annie is very taken. They’d been seeing one another for two months when he, a Marine reservist still in college, traveled across the country for a 6-week stint at officer’s training school.

He hadn’t been gone a day when Annie started talking about moving in with him. She missed him but he’d be back, and she was sure they needed to live together.

I listened to Annie’s proposal, replying with a number of mothering sorts of things. She didn’t have any money, or a job. She didn’t know Jake well. And college. Please, wouldn’t she finish her 2-year college program, for her future?

She’d look for a job, she said, and did. College wasn’t interesting to her now, she said. Maybe another day, she told me, but right now she didn’t know what she wanted to do in life.

“It’s so hard to go back to school later, honey,” I pleaded. “And life is so big, and there are so very many experiences you haven’t had, haven’t even imagined, so many people you haven’t met.”

“I’m not getting married,” Annie said. “No, not for a long time. I’m just moving in with Jake.”

She went to look at apartments, found immediately one to her liking, and she reported by phone to Jake the location, costs, size and features of the apartment she thought they should rent.

“What does he think?” I would ask.

“He’s for it, says it sounds perfect,” she’d tell me.

Constantly running through my mind was that I had left home at an even younger age. And I had gotten married. I was 18. I wonder what my mother thought. If she had doubts, if she protested, I didn’t hear her. I had only one direction in mind. I wanted to be married, to have my own place, to set up housekeeping – and live.

So I do understand, or think I do, Annie’s plan. Very young, straight out of high school, I left my parents’ home in Oakland and moved to Napa with my husband. We got jobs and we rented an apartment, and it was thrilling.

Everything was thrilling. We could be together 24 hours a day. We could go where we wanted to go without asking anyone, could stay up late at night, eat what we wanted to whenever we felt like it, clean house or not, wash clothes or not. We made new friends, drove to the beach on weekends, and got our own puppy.

As I remembered this time in my life, it occurred to me to wonder if I was feeling jealous of my daughter. Was I simply wishing to again be young and unworried about the future, stepping off into a fresh and new, independent life?

Or was I more bothered that I was no longer needed as a mother? My last child was going off to live her own life and would no longer look to me for daily care. Maybe what I was feeling was just a matter of grieving a loss.

Annie and I talked about practicalities. While she ate toast and jam for breakfast, I insisted that we discuss money. Budgeting for utilities, gas and oil changes for her car, her cell phone. We talked about renting month to month versus leasing.

“I don’t want you to go,” I said more than once. “I’ll miss you so much. It’ll never be the same.”

Sweetly, Annie nodded. “I’ll see you, Mom. I’ll be home a lot, you’ll see.”

Then she added, “You know, you’re of two minds about this, Mom. When you’re mad at me, you think I should leave home, and when you’re not, you don’t want me to go.”

Eventually, we came to the fun part, the part I found I truly wanted to help with – what Annie and Jake would need to make a home.

With relish, I began making lists, and my daughter helped. I loved it.

“Jake’s got a couch and a chair. Will I need a microwave?” Then, looking around the kitchen where we were sitting, she named other necessities. “Cream of Wheat, for sure. And Scotch tape and that stuff to put up posters.”

Toaster, plates, knives. Sponges, rags, Windex. Vitamins, spaghetti sauce, chili powder.

Together we went shopping, had a grand time buying bowls and pizza cutter, a throw rug for near the patio door and 2 green pillows for Jake’s couch. We returned home to check them off our list.

We assembled jars of peanut butter, cans of mandarin oranges, boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Annie rented the apartment. It even has a swimming pool. She took things there, put them away, came back for more. Jake came home, loved the apartment, still loved Annie.

She filled the back seat of her car with her clothes and her music, and there came a moment when they were truly going. I handed them a grocery bag of butter and milk and bread and cheese. “At least you can have breakfast,” I told them.

It’s only been a couple of weeks. Annie calls me most days, and she visits a couple of times a week. Comes to do her laundry, to report on how her job is going, to give and get a kiss.

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