This may be the year of no resolutions. Not because I don’t believe in them but I haven’t had the occasion to do so. Moving from the outskirts of Denver to downtown took up most of my time and all of my energy.
New Year’s Day began with my arrival to Denver to help my kids move into their new place, a smaller condo in a historic 1929 building which is much closer to their jobs.
On moving day, while I’m at the title company signing documents for the new place, my daughter calls me:
“One of the moving guys reeks of weed, I can’t even understand what he’s saying…”
After I finished laughing, because I thought she was joking, I told her to call the manager of the company and not to let them inside.
My son reminded me to be patient. No doubt he saw the steam accumulating above my head. The virtue of patience is a resolution I’ve had for a few years, and I’m better but can still practice it much more often.
God, the Universe, and Karma gave me an opportunity to see if I’d remember my resolution.
We headed back to the old condo, a ride punctuated with my daughter’s texts that her call to the moving company resulted in being hung up on, transferred, voice mailed, and finally the manager called her back. His response: the guy wasn’t high, he said he took too much cold medication. (I don’t think so).
When I got back, I took a deep breath and made the best of a potentially bad situation. I received a call that the manager was coming over. When he got to the condo, I explained how he could see how a mother would worry when receiving a call like my daughter’s and she was home alone. Sure, he said, he’s a parent too.
Long story short, the boss made things right, brought along another worker, stayed to supervise the move and gave me a 10% discount.
Later that day, my son caught the flu and between his bouts in the bathroom and sleeping, he got his bedroom semi-together. We really needed his help with moving things and reaching high areas since he’s over six feet tall, but we had to do without.
I went into full Mom mode, making soup, a pitcher of manzanilla (chamomile) tea, and babying him for two days.
So I’m the one unpacking and it’s the pits. If I could have gotten away with it, I would have dumped 25 coffee cups and cat figurines my daughter has collected from the segunda (second-hand store). This would have left her with 20 cups, more than anyone needs.
A benefit of moving to a smaller place with closets half the size of the last ones is one can see all the needless ‘stuff’ to donate or throw. There are bags of stuff.
I took a walk around the neighborhood, to find the post office and markets. I was pleased to find a bookstore. The chalkboard was full of great book quotes:
The kids like their new place in this old brick building, but it’s hard adjusting to radiator heat that’s mounted in the ceiling. Nothing like central heat.
One cat, Heidi, likes jumping up to the windows and watching people walk by. The other one, Kiki, is still hiding somewhere.
So today, I’m going to rest, like Heidi, and maybe explore my intentions for the new year later.
It’s hard to believe they are young adults making their own way, not only in another town, but another state. Sometimes I get comments about this fact, “How could you let them go so far…” For many Latino families this just isn’t done. But that’s another story, for another time.
A couple or three weeks ago, the “polar vortex” swept through Colorado. My flight was cancelled and I didn’t make it up there to celebrate my daughter’s birthday. That sucked, but better to be safe than sorry (my daughter’s words).
Last time I was there, in December, I experienced my first snowy Christmas. We took a walk. The air felt frigid, the snow crunchy, my toes had no feeling.
Inside was the best way for a Southern California resident to view the snowfall.
My journal captured some thoughts which I developed into a poem.
Outside My Window
Layers of snow cover
a multitude of sins,
which no longer hover
below the blanket of white.
Cold truths against the light,
making beautiful the wrongs to right,
softens the landscape
against the morning light,
see how things can be made right,
Cushions of snow,
light and fresh,
unmarked drifts of possibilities
to keep the wrongs right,
to begin anew,
erase the dark.
A canvas of white
illuminated against the daylight,
soon to be crushed by black stripes,
making sludge of white
I’m glad I recorded my thoughts. They take me back to sitting at the living room window early in the morning, looking out to the balcony and street below.
Snow layered itself over hedges, trees, and cars. Pretty soon cars started driving by, and the morning woke up.
I made the kids some vegan Mexican hot chocolate which we stirred with cinnamon sticks. The spicy fragrant drink and the heater in the apartment warmed us from the inside out.
Memories about one’s kids are one of the greatest gifts about being a parent.
A month has passed since my two youngest moved to Colorado, to a city outside of Denver. I’ve had thirty days of tears, fears for their safety, and anxiety. The youngest son (YS) began college and my daughter (MD) wanted to start her new career in a new place. She’s in the health field and was certain she could find a job in the first week.
Parenting is hard, long distance parenting harder still. There is that fine line between ‘being there’ for them and gently pulling the apron strings from their hands. Kind of a holding on and letting go motion. In this case there was no gentle pull, but a sharp yank.
During the first week, YS had his bank account robbed-his entire summer savings-taken by someone who used his account number on the internet to purchase items from Macy’s. He found this out while shopping for groceries at the local market. He was pissed, MD mortified that they had to abandon their grocery cart and walk out with nothing.
YS made a flurry of phone calls to his bank and to me. Their Wi-Fi wasn’t working and they don’t have a printer so he had to fill out forms on his smart phone at Burger King and print the forms at school and mail them out. It’s a helpless feeling to know that your kid got ripped off, you can’t make it right for them, and you hope he’ll calm down enough to follow the long process to get his money back.
I wanted to FedEx them groceries, wire them money, do something. I imaged them starving. Instead I had to stop and think the situation through and have the kids do likewise. Yes, they had basic staples, beans, rice, and pasta. And that’s what carried them through. YS received his new ATM card and had his money returned in a week and a half.
Lesson: Listen first, don’t dive in to fix things. Do not keep your ATM card number stored on websites, change your password every 90 days, and check your account online frequently. Keep your pantry stocked with staples. Give kids recipes for making Mexican rice, sopita (alphabet or angel hair pasta in spicy sauce) and beans de olla (beans with onion, spices, in the pot) before they move.
The second week the kids new microwave wasn’t operating properly, burning popcorn, not heating. MD called complaining about the micro. We had a conversation about whether they could do without a microwave. She took it back to Walmart and used the $54 for groceries they hadn’t bought the first week. The internet in their apartment is still glitchy, MD doesn’t have a job yet, she ‘s getting worried, I’m getting worried about November’s rent. YS takes MD to a job center to do a job hunt the old fashioned way. MD and YS argue about the chores. His position “she’s home,” her position, “I’m not a maid.”
Lesson: Listen some more. Ask questions that help them solve problems. Luxuries come after necessities. When all else fails get back to the basics. A chore list is posted on the refrigerator.
The third week, MD called at 9 p.m Colorado time. With a trembling voice, she said she smelled something like gas and firetrucks were rumbling into the parking lot of the apartment complex.
“Get your coat, shoes, important papers, cat and get out of there,” I told her.
“I can’t find the cat,” she wailed.
“Leave the patio door open and get out of there,” I repeated.
She hung up. I called back, no answer. I called YS and told him to hightail it back to the apartment. FIve minutes later MD calls, crying. The firefighters told all the residents to evacuate a minute after our phone call. YS was visiting a friend, she couldn’t find the cat, and she was standing in 38 degree weather with her robe and slippers shivering. I did blow my top then almost shouting, asking her why she didn’t do what I told her to do.
“I had to find the cat.”
In my mind I shout, “F*ck the cat,” (sorry but I did), instead I reiterated that the cat has an exit through the patio door and I’m glad she got out with her cell phone. She had to hang up again. MD calls again, she can see the fire fighters walking on the roof above her apartment, then she yells “They’re chopping through our roof!” And I about faint. We lose our phone connection. I start praying and taking deep breaths.
Three minutes later she calls back and says all the residents had to walk a block away from the complex. She tells me how nice the neighbors are to her, noticing that she is alone, offering her a coat to wear, telling her cats are resourceful and keeping her company until my son arrives. We think of a game plan of where they will stay the night in case they can’t return to the apartment. YS wants to sleep in the car so they are nearby. Three hours later they get the all clear that they can return. MD finds the roof axed open, leaving a large gaping hole, a foot away from her front door.
We FaceTime a lot during the next couple of days. I check my airplane miles, I have enough to use for a round trip. I book a flight for the end of October.
Lesson: If you smell gas, and the fire engines are entering your parking lot, get your clothes on, take your wallet/ purse, and get out of the area. Post a sign on the inside of your front door specifying you have pets and their names. Appreciate the kindness of neighbors. Sometimes FaceTime isn’t enough and you’ll only feel better when you hug your kids in person. (This is the let go/hold on part).
The fourth week MD says YS is hardly home, he’s with friends he’s met at college and the skate park. She doesn’t have a car and stuck at home. I encourage her to walk her neighborhood, go to the rec center a couple of blocks away. “I don’t want to do that alone,” she says. The chore list isn’t working. Finally she has a job offer, but it’s not in the health field.
“But it pays well enough to cover all the bills and have money left over. It’s ten hour days, four days a week,” she says. “I start November 1st.”
“Good enough for now,” I say and exhale.
While Southern California endures scorching Santa Ana winds, my YS calls, “It’s snowing.” He’s never driven in snow. The kids send me photos of snow covered trees and cars. They complain that it’s “Freaken’ icy cold over here.” They find boots, warmer scarves and hats at the Goodwill.
And then they send me a photo of a squirrel on their balcony. “It’s so awesome over here.”
I breathe easier. So many obstacles in one month but we made it through. My worry hasn’t dissipated altogether, but I do have hope, faith, and pride for their accomplishments, and mine, to carry me through the next month.
The frenzy of doing often keeps my emotions out of reach, until the doing stops. Action keeps the feelings sidelined, pushed aside so I can go on without dissolving into a blubbering mess. Such is the activity of the last few days.
The preparation to move the property of two young adults and a cat, across two states, California to Colorado, was an adventure. We drove my son’s small SUV with a jammed packed U-Haul from our city at sea level past Las Vegas and up through the mountains of Utah.
It was difficult paying attention to the drive itself when my eyes wanted to take in the creamy sandstone rock formations around me. With each 1,000 feet we climbed the more lovely the mountains loomed ahead. We made it to Springdale, the town right outside Zion National Park. Zion, place of sanctuary, proved its rightful name.
The park was a wonderous distraction from driving and feeling the emotions about the move. A shuttle bus across the motel took us to the park, where we boarded a larger open air shuttle that took us to several sights, a hop on and hop off scenic trip through the park to view high monoliths of rock. An impressive monolith, rising more than 2400 feet above the canyon floor, is the Great White Throne.
The next morning, with a full moon descending, we are on the road again through steeper mountain passes. At 7,000 feet and climbing, in 90 degree weather, the car overheated. A green sign on the road next to us said 58 miles to the next town (Grand Junction, CO).
My boyfriend knew what to do: turn off the air conditioner, let the car cool down for 30 minutes, check the engine, check fluid and oil levels. Everything seemed okay, and off we went again. At Grand Junction, we put in transmission oil, checked fluids again, ate an early dinner, and began driving again. I had to pay attention to the climbing altitude which was very difficult with the oxblood colored rocks, dotted with pine and colored blonde with Aspen trees.The moon rose as we climbed.
Nighttime driving is hard, doubly when it’s up a mountain. I drove through Vail, at 10, 800 feet in the dark, with road repair work every few miles, through winding roads of descents and ascents, checking in the rear view mirror to make sure the trailer didn’t sway. Like a pilot, I had to scan the car dashboard, checking on the engine temperature while paying attention to road signs that notified us of “careful wildlife ahead for 12 miles.”
“Sorry, daughter, if a deer jumps in front of this car it’s her or me. I won’t swerve.”
“Maaa-ooom, don’t say that,” she said.
After two hours of heightened alert, we see the twinkling lights of Denver spread before us. After a month, I got to see my son again. Hugs and kisses, not just from us but from his cat, who very uncat -like jumped and cuddled into his arms.
The next morning we went to the apartment leasing office to sign papers and get the apartment keys. While unpacking boxes, I think how long a year lease is and whether the kids will find jobs soon. I watch as my daughter sets up her household. Box by box, she removes framed family photos and covers the fireplace mantel with memories, images that will keep her family near. No mistake, this apartment is her place now. I finish washing her collection of cat mugs and then sit in a camping chair for a break.
“Mom, does this look good here…what do you think about this shelf here?”
She jots down missing items, can I ship these forgotten items to her? Space fills, blank walls burst with color. I feel on the verge of tears, a little numb, try to breathe. They’ll be all right, they’ll make their way, they’re smart. I look out the sliding glass doors to the balcony. Pine trees tower way past the third floor of their apartment. I’m reminded that this is the first day of fall. Seems appropriate.
I began to pray for my kids, to be safe, protected from evil. I talk to them about working together when it comes to the bills, rent, groceries, and household chores. To trust and rely on each other, and for my daughter not to be my sons mom but remember that they are two young adults living an independent life. I remind myself of these things too.
They’ll be here, I’ll be in California, two states between us. I think of letting go of what was the semi predictable to unpredictable, no control over their lives. I hope they will call me to help in important decisions, just to ask for my advice. That will help me through this time.
We hug. Boyfriend and I walk down the stairs, away from them. My mind floats to words, to make a poem. I scribble on paper, while tears seep onto my cheeks.