How can this be commonplace? The giving away of my child to other countries, other cultures, another mother even, on the other side of the world.
It seems to get easier each time but really, it just takes me longer to arrive at what if. What if . . . What if this is the last time I see you? Ever.
Why do you never glance back after you pass through the metal detector? From that far away you can’t see how damp my face is or hear my sobs. Besides, I’ve gotten to where I can cry almost noiselessly. Really.
Between the security queue and your email saying, “I’m here,” I hold my breath. My lungs become shiny with pressure, I’m sure of it. When I glimpse at last your Skype smile, I unclench. Sag. Exhale. Turn away for a few seconds to press my shirttail to my tears.
Does she offer you coffee in the morning? Your host mother? Or perhaps she already discovered your predilection for cocoa. Has she reached across the table to twirl the gleam of one of your Popsicle curls? Or run her finger pads over the inside of your arm—to check if North American skin feels the same as South American?
I wonder if she will ask about me? Or Papa? Has she inquired if you have siblings? Perhaps you’ll accompany her to a quaint, open-air café in a square that looks out on a centuries-old, stone-cobbled thoroughfare. You’ll open your compact pink computer and display us, your home, your life.
Let her see the picture of you and me, silly at two in the morning the night before that one Thanksgiving. Counters and floor littered with saged croutons. Grins smeared with brown sugared sweet potatoes. You know, the shot you won’t show anyone because it makes your left eye seem slightly squinty. I love that photo. I look young. And so in love. With you.
What if you meet him there? The love of your life. You could come face to face with him any day now. Maybe waiting in line to pay for a mug of boiling milk and a chocolate bar to melt into it.
We’d have to wait, let’s see, fifty some days to meet him. Or you could Skype us with him beside you. The blush of your cheek would rest against the wide-open friendliness of his face. And maybe he’d pick up your hand and press it to his lips or heart. Papa and I would grip each other’s legs under the computer desk, where you couldn’t see. I’d try very hard not to say anything to embarrass you in front of him.
Really, it could happen. Just last week Grandma said, “She’s going to come back with a husband. Just you wait.” Sometimes those random odd things she spouts come to pass.
I’ve noticed lately that when you come home, it’s to visit, not to live. Not anymore. It’s as if we, your family, dwell in a prison of the ordinary. This house, this street, this town. There’s no mystery here. Just the constraint of familiarity. Fast food joints, banks, and carwashes. Mountains like hills when compared. Here there’s no four-mile wide waterfall or beach a morning’s stroll away.
It’s odd and uncomfortable, the feeling of your life eclipsing mine. Forgive me, daughter, for I have sinned. I covet your every-day-is-different, fascinating life. I long to be the exotic minority—with fair skin and light eyes—not the mundane majority. I want to sample things new and savory—ruby and emerald sauces, dissolve-on-the-tongue protein sources (Don’t tell me what it is. Please don’t. Shhhh!). I want to caress handpainted creations in the marketplace and say, “¿Cuánto?” Instead, I purchase toilet paper, write out the mortgage check, and load the dishwasher.
The fact of the matter is that this giving away of children is commonplace. Every day young men and women leave their parents to make their way in the world. Even so, at each major point of departure I don’t think I’ll ever stop my almost noiseless weeping. Or my asking of what if.