The joy of being with Mom after a weekend apart pacified my sadness. I never like leaving Nana and PopPop’s house. It was the original atmosphere that I equated with the notion of belonging.
Their humble home was the crucible in which I became acquainted with the conception of security. The basement was the inner sanctum where my mom and I slumbered together, in the same bed no less. My first memories, my first words, my first ventures into autonomy, my first schemas about how the wild world works were born in their 3 bedroom, 1-bathroom edifice.
Dispatching from either my mom or Nana-and-PopPop left me lost. I was either leaving the safe harbor I found in Mom’s arms or the abode I found in my grandparent’s presence. In any event, I was leaving a sense of home behind to find one elsewhere. Nevertheless, I was elated to be with my mother dearest once more. I missed her. And I was excited to see Daddy Jimmy again when we returned to New Jersey. I missed him too.
What began to feel like clockwork, the changing of the guard ensued. Everybody was out standing in the driveway in front of the house. The gravel that substituted the paved place for the cars to stay put crunched and craggled beneath my sneakers. PopPop transported my car seat from his four-door Buick sedan, his golden boy, to my mom’s petite two-door coupe.
Then, Mommy put me in my seat, and I showed her I could snap myself in. “You did it!” She said with a grin that mismatched the melancholy in her eyes. The windowpanes to the inner being have a way of showing what the gates to the vocal cords shut out.
Then, she got into the driver’s seat, her feathered bangs catching the precipitation on her forehead. Mom turned on the idle vehicle, which conjured the radio’s boisterous response. “Say bye-bye baby girl,” she said. I was about to bid my adieus when Nana snuck into my window to deposit a flurry of kisses that would hold me over until we met again. Both cheeks where recipients for good measure.
I was without time to utter my farewells, so I motioned them. Nana, Poppi, and my uncles waved back. “See you later alligator,” Nana chimed.
“In a while crocodile,” Mommy sang back. At with that she backed out and drove off. She drove as if on autopilot until she joined fellow travelers automating down the busy highway. While I teetered on the joy of our reunion, she did her best to camouflage her tottering from an unseen sorrow.
My mini-me was jostling with the paradox of joy and sorrow. Even then, I was learning that they are not antagonists, but bed fellows. In the life that I was getting to know—the one simultaneously getting to know me—joy and sorrow were a constant centripetal force. One bounded and rounded the other into its true color, each enhancing the other’s flavor.