On Friday, Grace ran her first cross-country meet. She was nervous, I was not there, and she did well. She did really well. I met her after the meet and we went straight to the airport to pick up her dearest friend from camp, J. J is the daughter of my old and dearest friend, Jess, who I met at the same camp, when we were 12. Grace and J were born 12 weeks apart to the day. Their firm friendship, independent from ours though inextricably woven through it, makes me happier than I can articulate.
While waiting to pick Grace up, I tweeted that I was collecting my daughter from her first cross-country race. Lacy tweeted back, “This makes me teary. The colt legs, the pony tail. Late light on the towpath. Go, Graciegirl, go!” That message sent me immediately and viscerally back into the fall light with my friend, a fellow redhead, walking along the towpath, the autumn light on our head. Then and now collapsed together and I cried, alone in the car.
Grace arrived, I met her coaches, and we headed to the airport. As we walked in, Grace took off running, her cross-country jersey billowing behind her, her ponytail bouncing. She’s nearly as tall as I am now, long and lean, all planes and sharp angles, full of energy and a blooming, hopeful tentativeness that is both familiar and, somehow, sad. I took the picture above and stood, feeling like the wind had been knocked out of me, as I watched her go. Always, they are running away. My own cross-country days, in the woods of New Hampshire, among trees whose leaves flamed and then dropped to the ground, felt animate around me, both yesterday and a lifetime ago. It’s her turn now. And rather than making me sad, it feels right. I am grateful to be here to cheer her on. I can’t wait to go to her first actual meet and to watch her take off, as my mother did so many years ago.
And the seasons, they go round and round …
We got to the gate early. As I watched Grace wait for her friend I found that my eyes were brimming with tears. When my dearest friend’s daughter walked off the airplane towards my own willowy tween, I remembered holding her as a newborn, her tiny self curled on top of my belly which was swollen with Grace. Over and over again, memory confuses and confounds me with its power: how can that moment be so far gone, never to come again, when it also feels sturdy, still here?
I trailed the two of them back to the car, Grace still in her cross-country uniform, J carrying her own bag, their lanky bodies almost exact mirrors of each other, and thought that they are now the age that Jess and I were when we met for the first time. I also remembered the day I first discovered I was pregnant with Grace, February 15, 2002, when the first phone call I made was to Jess. I will never forget that conversation, my whispered, fearful question, and her warm, loving answer. And from that day forward there were these two girls, whose lives I hope will be joined forever by what they shared even before they were born. I imagine them when they are our age, hopefully still as beloved as they are now, and it makes me glad, relieved, breathless with wonder.
It is so much, all of it: my youth, then, her youth, now, running, the leaves turning, friendship, history, all that has happened before and is still here. Time folds like an accordion, then kisses now and spreads apart again, and the past surfaces through the present from time to time, enriching it and reminding me of where I came from. And always there is my startlingly tall daughter, running away, faster than I could ever imagine, her mahogany ponytail bouncing as the sun goes down.
Sometimes this life is so beautiful it is almost unbearable.
I wrote this post last weekend, but this morning it occurs to me that it nicely straddles September’s and October’s Here Year themes, time and friendship.