Rewinding the Clock
Her voice on the phone was weary. I could tell instantly that Amy, our middle daughter, was on overload. But I dared not ask, at least not yet.
Amy resides in Manhattan, works in the entertainment industry and lives a life that I could tolerate for about three days. She darts from crisis to crisis, juggles three phone lines, lives on the Internet and seems to spend at least half her life in corporate meetings. But Amy — high-energy, hard-driving Amy — thrives on it.
On this night however, the pace seemed to have caught up with her. And she clearly needed some down-time. As it turned out, Amy's company was doing some work in the Philadelphia-South Jersey area, her old stomping grounds. And if it was okay, could she spend a couple of nights with us, making our home her headquarters, instead of staying with her colleagues at a hotel?
Okay with us? We hadn't spent sustained time with this middle daughter since the week of her wedding four years and two babies ago. That was the last time she had actually stayed under our roof for four consecutive nights. So not only was it okay, it was absolutely, positively terrific.
Amy arrived looking a bit bedraggled from a long day and a train ride into Philadelphia that had run into mechanical problems. Just what this overworked young woman didn't need.
It was even more gratifying than I'd expected to pamper her with home cooking and to see her delight. It was the plainest of plain food: meatloaf and the crispy, oven-baked potatoes Amy always loved. But our Manhattan daughter — who dines on sushi, exotic Cuban food, Thai delicacies and Mediterranean dishes I can't even pronounce — devoured my meatloaf like there was no tomorrow.
That night, she practically fell asleep in the middle of a sentence. Her father and I helped Amy climb the stairs and watched her crumble into an exhausted heap in the bed from her old room. Suddenly, we felt like parents again.
For the next three days, we devoured our time with this daughter whose life is still something of a mystery to us. Between her phone calls and meetings, we found opportunities to remember old times, family lore, and all the patchwork of memories that define this thing called "family."
Amy and I ate peanut butter and apricot jelly sandwiches on crackers like we had when she was in high school. We took a walk in our old neighborhood so we could both reminisce about life in that wonderful house where another family was now building memories. And one morning, Amy and I even attempted a yoga session from a tape on the family room VCR.
We laughed a lot, read, and got sentimental over crazy old family photos. For this blink of time, we were just parents and a daughter again, minus all the profound changes in our lives.
I think Amy enjoyed suspending time just as much as we did. I could swear that she looked younger than she had two days before.
But too soon, our daughter was standing beside a stuffed suitcase and a briefcase bulging with papers. Too soon, real life nipped at her heels.
We drove Amy to the train in Philadelphia, knowing this brief reunion might not be repeated for months; maybe years. But we hugged our middle daughter goodbye, grateful that in the middle of all our hectic lives, we had had this lovely interlude, this chance to rewind the relentless clock...if only but for a moment.
And if we've learned one thing by this stage of our lives, it's this: Seize the moment, whenever and however it comes. And you savor it for all it's worth; for all too soon, it will be gone.
By Sally Friedman
From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Empty Nesters
Have a great day!