On the way to camp this morning, we passed Hazel’s elementary school and she started sobbing. I asked her what was wrong, though I already knew.
“I miss Miss Zimmerman,” she said from the back seat. And then she cried real hard, as if the words out loud were telling her something she didn’t already know.
I pulled over so she could get it all out before showing up at camp. Her first words after the tears dried up were “I can’t wait to see ____________!” in reference to a friend at camp. Her new smile was as strong as her tears. “I promise myself I’m going to give her a great big hug when I see her.”
It was amazing. In a matter of minutes, she’d walked to the sun and back.
But when I dropped her off, she became too shy to give that great big hug. She was barely able to talk. She shrunk down into her clothes, hid in her hoodie. I wanted to give the hug for her, play back the tape in the car, pull hearts out of my sleeve.
Instead, I chatted with the moms and left for breakfast.
I thought I was good. I thought I was moving on.
Halfway through breakfast, with my grits swirled unneatly into my eggs, I noticed my eyes were wet and my nose was running. There I was, in a near-empty restaurant on a Monday, wiping at the corners of my eyes and sniveling up snot, damp crumpled napkins in a pile.
Honestly it was baffling.
I’m not sure if I was happy or sad, or just having an allergic reaction but I could feel this sweetness deep down, like I wanted to put my arms around the world.
I brought a book to read but never opened it, just held the coffee cup up to my lips, feeling the heat through the porcelain and staring out the front door at the traffic going by. My stomach ached.
Crazy how you don’t know something is there until it forces itself upon you.
Especially the things inside.
I’d just finished up a 10-day trip to the east coast. Saw my family in full, the oldest and the youngest, attended a wedding, held hands with Molly through the vows, watched my dad invite my daughter outside to see the fireflies, saw my friends from high school who immediately loved my girls just as I love theirs. Stayed up til 3 riffing with a college mate on saving the world as we sat under a thunderstorm on her patio, listened to my dad tell everyone he’s engaged with biggest smile he’s ever had, laughed so deeply with my brother, we healed the room.
Raucous roadtrips, silence in a crowd, sitting awkwardly, missing moments that may never happen again, sleeping in, hardly sleeping at all, heartfelt conversations, lingering glances, looking way, no words, taking off, landing, taking off, landing, coming home…
And, now, right in front of me: a string of texts from friends, welcoming me back, inviting me over, sending me big, red hearts.
It’s no wonder.
When I was little, I would have to hide myself in order to cry. I climbed trees, built blanket forts in the playroom, took extra time in the shower. And then in college, it was fire escapes, whiskey, walks with my sunglasses on, and waiting for no one to be home.
As much as I seek to connect with people, to be present whenever possible, to love out in the open, I can’t help but wonder how much I’m still not able to show, what’s trapped inside?
I thought of Hazel in the back seat, looking out the window, not wiping her tears away at all.
Which is the part we learn? Crying when you pass by a memory or sucking it all back in before you get out of the car?
I paid the check, left a big tip, and walked out with my eyes still wet, sunglasses in place. I didn’t hug the waiter, though I really wanted to.
Oh Hazel, sweet girl, daddy’s a little lost on this one.
And you’re doing fine.