Discover more from Fleeting
Kiss. Wave. Repeat.
An embarrassment of goodbye riches.
For years when taking my youngest son to school whether by car or on foot he observed the same ritual each time we parted. We’d kiss, hug, say goodbye, and as he walked away he’d turn, wave, and say goodbye or blow a kiss another half dozen times. Without fail. Between our hug and the moment he entered the building he repeated these few steps every day. In the lower grades he was in good company, other kids doing the same with their parents, but by grade six, he stood out. And finally, in grade seven and a new school, this one full of teenagers, he was alone. He was less conspicuous, the distance between car and school short, but still he managed what he could. We’d kiss and hug and as he walked away he’d turn, wave, and repeat.
Pulling away from the junior high one morning after dropping him off, I commented on this to his younger sister. I love his goodbyes, I said. Why, she asked. She hadn’t noticed anything special. I pointed out how he turned and waved and had been for years. It's unusual, I said, for a boy of twelve to be so demonstrative, unconcerned with being seen, not worried about what his friends think. I may have thrown in a superlative or two but not for the purpose of comparison. Unique was unique. We drove on.
By the time we got to her school, however, she’d had time to think things through. I can say goodbye as many times as he does, she said. And beginning that day and continuing for weeks, determined, she did. As often as she could remember. It didn’t come naturally but she willed it into being. We’d arrive at the school, whether in the car or on foot, hug, kiss, say our goodbyes and then, as she walked away, if she remembered, she’d turn, wave, and call goodbye another few times. Sometimes, in fact, she’d walk backwards the whole way, turning only to climb steps, and then resume her backward advance waving and blowing kisses as she went. Frequently. Not always. Sometimes, things on her mind, face forward, she’d run or dawdle without so much as a backward glance, the immediate past already behind her and the new present or near future now her sole focus. That was the difference. For my son the current moment wasn’t entirely over until he’d squeezed every last drop from it.
One day, especially intent on making good on her pledge, she got out of the car, began her backward walk, wave, wave, wave, oblivious to the onset of rain, a sprinkle turned sudden downpour. A gale unleashed itself on her through which she squinted and continued to blow kisses, moving now more slowly for the buffeting she took and the difficulty she had in seeing me. Gracie, I yelled out the car window, You’re getting soaked, get into the school, at which point she stopped, offered one last wave, turned, and ran.
And there I sat in the enviable position of wondering which one made me the luckier: a son whose innate attentions produced such lavish goodbyes or a daughter who’d battle the elements to show me she loved me just as much. I couldn’t decide. I didn’t need to decide. I had both.
Thanks for reading Fleeting! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.