Coming and Going

“You are one of the bravest people I know,” I squeaked, as tears filled my eyes.

She kept my gaze as I spoke a blessing over her cross-country journey into the unknown. Without concrete work and with very temporary housing in place, she was moving back to L.A. after a long COVID relocation. 

A bright spot of the pandemic—each of my three young adults returned home for different seasons. Marinna, the eldest and a writer/actress, had been working primarily from our home since last October. We became unexpected roommates during much of this tumultuous time.

We stumbled along adjusting—an independent 20-something moving back in with her parents, and a mother welcoming home a grown child for a long stint of “be a mother but don’t be a mother.” We had squabbles over menus, car use, household chores, and politics. I delved into her business more than she wished, and she messed up my kitchen more than I preferred. Our months together proved to be precious and challenging, and we experienced some beautiful moments of restoration.

This moving day was one for which we were ready, but it was equally poignant. In recent weeks I had been anticipating the return of our quiet home, and during this particular week our two daughters would leave within days of each other. My husband and I would transition to just us again.

I knew I would miss the laughter and playfulness of our daughters that filled the rooms of our home with life. I was concerned that I would be overcome with loneliness or flounder as I had during the first go around of the empty nest. I wondered with God how I would make the adjustment. 

Would I find my footing, or would I shrivel up and grow old in an empty house? Would the recurrence of children coming and going ever find its place of normalcy?

Would I ever lose the delight of their returning or the grief of their leaving?

I wanted some sign that all would be well again.

And this daughter, would she flourish? Would she find work, food, and a place to live? Would her aged car make the trip without a breakdown?* All of these questions streamed through my head lacking answers. I would have to manage the discomfort of not knowing.

On a hot, humid day in August, we lugged her bags down the stairs from her bedroom. We made one last pass through the house, checking for overlooked items. She made room for them in the overloaded trunk and slammed it shut; then, she turned toward me to give a long, firm hug. We lingered as we said goodbye.

Then, it was time.

She hopped in the car, rolled down the window, and waved as tears ran down her cheeks. I blew one last kiss as she turned out the driveway. I stood on the steaming pavement, perspiration running down my back, still holding all my questions.

*Marinna’s air conditioning quit in the Utah desert. $1000 and one day delay.

Maryhelen Martens has been gathering and connecting with others since she was a young girl growing up in rural Wisconsin. She is a lover of whimsy and play, beauty and depth, all of which she experiences in her relationships. While her emotions and voice were shut down for decades, she is finding them again and using them in healing groups, story coaching, and writing. She’s always been drawn to water and sunsets and more recently to the desert and sunrises. She’s curious about that. Mother to three authentic adults, Maryhelen lives with her steadfast husband Keith on the shore of Lake Michigan.