“Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone….”
California mornings. Bright with sun and promise, blue skies, cloudless, blissful, always the same blind beauty. Numb to it, are we? Maybe. Do we expect it, perhaps as our due? Probably.
I do know we miss it when skies are overcast and our shadows faint.
Same as every other blameless, shameless California morning, days nearly always opened brilliant and fair. A soft, whisper breeze teased us as we gathered on the porch, same as yesterday and tomorrow, cups of rare tea and exotic coffees, or orange juice or choco milk in hand, our little family tradition. Before processing our day, barefooted and jammie-clad, we’d stumble to the kitchen for a cup of whatever was hot, or not, then paddle blindly out front to our favorite rickety rocker, or the stone ledge under the Japanese maples.
Did we ever look at a clock or watch, either going out or going back in? Not that I recall. Our inner clocks were timely as tardiness never seemed an issue. Did we discuss politics? Did we debate economic policy? Discuss, possibly. Debate, never. The delicate breath of wind set the mood. It was time to just settle, contemplate, enjoy the moment and the moments to come.
Utopia-sounding, I’ll allow that. But it was, and still is. Life marches, though, however much we contemplate and consider. It surges then withdraws, much like the ocean waves over the hill behind our family home. We adjust our sails and our keels appropriately, not always seeking a perfect ride, but always, always finding a way through. Those still moments so early in the day, ending when the cups were empty, evened us out, allowing us surer passage through those ups and downs.
Early days, the kids might tell jokes or try tongue twisters through still sleepy mouths. Gentle giggles, always. We’d tell stories of family adventures, sounding like humming an old song, remembering particularly silly moments to cement them in our heads. Guaranteeing, we told ourselves, they not be altered as memories were pushed to the back by newer, fresher ones. Later days, we might lazily discuss daily plans, do a quick walk-through of the day, coordinate schedules, or even memorize a spelling word or two.
They grew. We expected they would. It’s what they’re supposed to do. Tiny kiddo-feet turned into delicate dancer’s feet and giant often-cleated feet. Largely trippable, now, so we learned to watch our morning steps more carefully. Those days we spoke of dances and boys and girls and dresses and boutonnieres. Then college trips on the front edge of tomorrow and exams and summer jobs.
Some days we spoke wistfully, peering into our cups for reassurance, knowing, but hoping beyond hope these morning reveries were not numbered. Our oldest, maturing lovely and sharp, began her days now with eyes leveled on the horizon. We often had to repeat ourselves to bring her back to the commons of the porch. She’d smile, always gracious. The horizon, however, continued to beckon.
I’m the mama, and always relatively prepared, insinuating myself into the preparations, albeit more for my own peace than anything else. Diplomas had been dealt, scholarships secured, roommates introduced and courses of study scoured and devoured. She, we, had been oriented, vetted, counseled and selected. And the horizon got ever closer for us all.
Day came, bright and early and beaming and California cloudless like all the others. And like all the others, we stumbled out to the porch, but this time clouds in our eyes made our trek all the more off-balance. She, tea, me, coffee, Daddy and the boys some smelly protein concoction, we gathered just this one more time before the first giant wave hit.
Steadily, we steered what tidbits of conversation there were to things past. Remember when? Remember that day? Oh, man, how did we ever?
Smokescreens, all, but a safe harbor before she set sail. Cups emptied, one by one, she and me, the last. Deep sighs and slow, small movements to standing. And there we all stood. No idea how long. Even the why was a bit hazy. But there we stood, still. Words that should have been said, could have been said, were said in silence. Together, new tears were now flowing freely, before the wave of the new day swept us out to new seas and new days.
We’ll adjust our sails, we always do, and we’ll sail on. But for now, I’ll fully feel the deep and dark sadness of clouded days, use them to gauge my way ahead. And for now, my heart heavy, I’ll note the dark skies and weep silently, hoping the swells next time are more familiar. Still, my heart, like the skies, will be gray.
“Any time she goes away…..”