It is early morning, boasting a bright, clear sky typical of a Colorado summer. The sun is already hot and will only get more so as the day progresses. I am leaving for a walk, later in the morning heat than I like, but determined to have the “me” time I need. A glance at the weeds in my garden calls me to a stop, trying to command me to take care of what has been lingering on my “someday” job list. I plug my earphones in, searching for a motivating song on my player, and force myself to keep to the walk.
Around the corner I see Brie’s mother. Brie is my daughter’s closest friend. Since they were four they have weaved in and out of each other’s lives, catching up at key moments and then each going off to their own adventures. Brie’s mom stands at the edge of her driveway, hose in hand, watering the flowers that grow throughout the yard. We don’t know each other well. I am sure she probably calls me Amanda’s mother—and I will tell Amanda later I spoke to Brie’s mother—our daughters’ friendships tying our worlds together.
Her house has a beautiful yard. Circles of flowers and colorful plants meander their way from the house, along the lawn, down to the street. It’s a huge contrast to how the house looked for many years. There was hardly a flower or bush in sight back when the girls were small. It blended in, no different from the neighbors’ or any of the hundred houses existing in our neighborhood. Today it flourishes, it stands out, immersed in life, color and beauty.
Despite my need to keep walking before the heat defeats me, I stop to speak to her. She smiles at me and immediately asks for an Amanda report. I go through my details—college almost over, her wanting to move to Seattle. Yes it is hard to believe, where did the time go? Then, her information on Brie. She’s in Guam today, but who knows for how long or when she will leave. Brie has planned no trips home, she tells me with sadness in her voice. I know a year from now that will probably be my story as well—Amanda gone, off on her own venture. I feel a mother’s pain; soon I will know it.
We gaze across her garden, trying to move the discomfort away from our conversation. I comment that her flowers are lovely and what a green thumb she has. She doesn’t look up; she keeps her eyes on some flower or plant that she is connected to.
“It happened one day,” she explains quietly. “One day after Brie left I couldn’t take the pain, the emptiness. I came out and started to dig. One thing led to another and well, this is what was created. Brie was in the Greek Islands then, far from home, from me. I missed her horribly,” she explained, finally looking in my eyes, “and so I created the Greek Islands here around the house.”
She walked a few steps away from me and started pointing out the islands of flowers, each by their Greek name.
“Here is the island of Corfu. It has the red poppies on it. Over here is Ithaca, where Brie spent several weeks. I planted Campanulas there.” As she spoke I could see their outline, and indeed it was true. Tiny Greek islands dwell on her front lawn.
“Mikonos is my favorite. There are three types of roses here. I didn’t know a flower from a shrub,“ she went on. “I read on the Internet for hours about the flowers of Greece and what they needed. Some required shade, others the sun. It took days getting them arranged just so, making sure they were placed correctly. It filled my time, my empty hours. I just felt closer to Brie during the time I spent here digging, re-creating the islands she was living on.”
So, I thought, is this what we women do? Our lives far from our children, do we find something new to nurture, something more to give life to? Will I go off on a mad venture some early morning looking for a new endeavor that will need my love, my attention? And does that help? Does it fill the empty void caused by their leaving? When you get to the other side of the empty nest, what does life look like?
The first time I saw Brie she was standing on my front porch asking for Amanda. She was so small, all eyes and wild brown hair. A wispy, airy child, fearlessly walking to our house in hope of finding her friend. I never knew how they met or where, but through the years she wandered in and out of our house, and Amanda in hers. Their days were spent, laughing, carrying on, tea parties in Amanda’s room, games in the yard, hanging upside down on the swing set. And then, as quickly as she drifted in, she was gone. For years she remained away, their friendship dormant. One day she reappeared, standing at our front door, a beautiful young woman, asking for Amanda, her friend. The constant activity resumed. Brie in our house, Amanda in hers, until the day Brie flew off again for college in Hawaii and summers on islands even further away. She stays at that age in my mind. My only connection now comes from Amanda, through phone calls they make halfway around the world to keep in touch.
It is now a mother’s time to feel the emotions, the pain of being left behind and to struggle to understand successful child rearing means they leave; they create their own lives. And despite all the emotions we have, the clock will never turn back for me, for Brie’s mom, or for our daughters.
I realize we are lost in thought, deep in feelings. There is a quiet between Brie’s mother and me; two special spirits are with us, little spirits we both love. Returning to the present, we smile at each other, our shoulders shrug, a knowing look saying I understand, I feel it too. Together we stand for a moment longer, side by side as Amanda’s mom, Brie’s mom, soaking up the warm sun, lost in our memories and in the beauty she has created.
Update: Oct 2013 Brie is now engaged and we wish her a lifetime of happiness.