Monday, June 16, 2008

Separated and unequal

My mother cried when she said goodbye to me at Union Station yesterday. This is not unusual. In fact, it's expected of my mother for all major events -- college, travel abroad, new jobs, moving, weddings, well-executed dinner parties, and so on.

Yesterday's farewell, however, was *not* a major event. It was the end of a lovely weekend visit, and consisted of one big hug and kiss before I see her again in a month. One month. Yet there she was, mascara smeared, nose sniffling, hugging me every two steps, and blaming the whole hot mess on hormones.

The other passengers kindly ignored us. And I knew it wasn't hormones.

Right now, you're probably thinking I'm an insensitive clod who doesn't appreciate parental devotion and the vagaries of female emotions, and thus doesn't deserve such a loving and arugula-bearing mother. Au contraire, dear readers. It was all I could do not to cry myself at the first sight of her tears, while the nagging catch in my throat poked holes in my cheery goodbyes.

The truth is, my mother's sudden leaking at Gate K tapped into a much deeper emotional vein for me, one I'd been struggling with since I finished moving my stuff out of my parents' house. Yes, I am seeing her and Dad again in a month -- but that's still one month. For however quickly the time passed in retrospection, 30 days can be a helluva long time to wait to see/hug/catch up with people you once saw/hugged/caught up with every day.

The homesickness -- or people-sickness, as it were -- extends beyond my parents. There's my whole circle of relatives that I can't join for family parties, lunch, or impromptu get-togethers. And we won't even get into my friends -- a few of them my "bests," many high school pals, work pals, singing groups, and more, all of whom I no longer get to be with in my regular comings and goings.

Indeed, the task of staying in touch is daunting. There are simply too many people, and out of sight is more out of mind than I realized. College transience kept much of this reality at bay, because it was a manufactured and temporary situation. But this move, from Philly to DC, is real life. My adulthood is irreversible. I could live here for many years to come, or perhaps move even further. Even more than the long-distance, the uncertainty tightens my chest, and makes me wonder if I made the right decision.

Of course, you sometimes don't gain the perspective and experience to judge such decisions' value until you've taken the risk. I could very well adjust to living outside of Philly within another 6 months. I might never get used to it. I might be able to live with it, and plan visits accordingly. Or I might have to move back as the only answer to that need.

I'm not leaning in any direction right now; it's really too soon to tell. I'm simply explaining why I wanted to cry right along with my mother in Union Station, and why I suddenly felt far more adult and responsible than I cared to at that moment. My life is here. My life is now. And the thrill of change is tempered (balanced?) by the ache of growing pains.

No return ticket here. One month will pass. We'll visit. Then we'll plan the next visit. And I'm confident my mother will cry. How wonderful to know the best things in life never change.


  1. Anonymous11:33 AM

    Dear Julia,

    I just read your thoughts about last weekend and---I'm crying again! The best news in all of these feelings you are experiencing is that nothing is so etched in stone that you can't make changes to your situation in some way or another. Just remember the story I told you about the day Dad and I had to say goodbye to my Mom and Dad in their driveway on our way to live almost 1,000 miles away in Florida, when you were 20 months old. Grandpop cried when he told me that now you would never know him. Julia, now you know very well that nothing could be further from the truth. (Who went with Grandpop to Italy? Hmmm?)Everything I felt that day and for several years after that did, in fact, change. In my heart I really do believe that we ultimately find our way back, literally and figuratively, to the place we love the most. You will too. Give it time, give it your all. We are all here for you.

    Love you forever, Mom

    PS: Don't forget our new mantra. "GET IN! IT'S BUBBLES!"

  2. Anonymous6:47 PM

    I have never understood why my Italian Philly mother weeps uncontollably whenever i leave, yes, for short periods of time. It seems so contrived to me because when we are together, all she does is insult and guilt trip me and point out all my failings. It's exhausting and the tears just make me feel more traped and confused. I can't possibly have that much power over her, because according to her everything I do is wrong. Someimes I wish I was born "Meddigahn".

  3. Anonymous6:36 AM

    Youhave to understand the mind frame of italian mother's .. most people dont as the only child to my mother ,(I am a man) .
    It a very strange relationship The bond is unreversable. as you get older the bond gets stronger. and when you get a gf or what ever the mother is more like a scorned lover . and points out shes not good enough for you points out all her shortcomings of how she raised you . its quite odd but its a common thing with italian mothers

  4. Anonymous8:14 PM

    From an Italian Mother...

    Letting go of the first child (son) was awful...couldn't even go near his room for a month and he was just away at college. Letting go of the second child (daughter) was easier on me but harder on my little I comforted her as her sister, now married with child, left home. Fast forward 19 years...the youngest daughter, now a college graduate and working 6 jobs, would like to leave home but is not financially independent yet (and we are not ready to see her go either)...does not have a significant other in her life yet ... and the parents (retired, wanting to have a life of their own in another state) cannot move ahead without 'their baby' knowing full well she will eventually move out if we stay. Yes, it is full blown Italian Mother Syndrome (which I didn't realize someone else had coined until I went online. I know for all of my Italian mother relatives and friends, who have kept all or most of their "babies" is good. The thought of 7 or more hours away is spontaneous having a slice of pizza definite holiday plans... Irriational? Emotional? Illogical? Yes, yes, yes. It never goes away...Italian motherhood is passed from generation to least I hope from where my daughters now one daughter in Virginia (the older one) the baby daughter is with us after college in PA and we are thinking of relocating to VA because it is so much more affordable...doing the leaving is just as hard as being left for an Italian mother. And yes, when we are together the arguments are part of life...generations apart...but the love and the silver thread that binds us all together grows stronger as I get older.