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|Hello, Good-bye - Page 2|
Sometime in the late 1980s, the prevailing wisdom shifted. Psychologists began warning that children who shuttled back and forth between their parents' homes risked feeling like traveling salesmen. But by then it was too late. "I never really belonged anywhere," Clay says now. "I always felt like a visitor."
There were other, less obvious, abandonments, too. I was a young, single mother when none of my friends were having kids; after my unhusband and I separated, I was too easily distracted—by a string of bad boyfriends, and by trying to forge a new identity, now that the '60s were over and hating society was no longer a viable career path. Later, after I'd figured out how to support myself and had settled down with Hugh—a kind, funny man, who became a devoted stepfather on our second date—his job took us from California to New York just as Clay was finishing up his junior year of high school. Now I was the one making the break. And though there have been bright patches—summers and vacations during college, frequent visits, trips en famille—my son and I have lived on opposite rims of this continent, and then on different continents, for nearly 20 years. For both of us, bonded in the unique way of single parents and their only children who more or less grew up together, the separations have been circumstantial, painful, like a persistent ache you learn to live with, but that never goes away.
Three years ago, I was seated on the edge of a chair in my living room in Washington, watching the late-morning sun filter through the gauzy curtains and perform its shadow dance on the rugs and furniture, when Clay broke the news over the phone.
"We decided we want to be near family when the baby comes.
We love Paris, but we don't really have anyone here."
I thought he was afraid of hurting me because he knew that I knew what was coming next. He'd tell me that they were moving back to San Francisco to be close to Tamar's parents and his father and stepmother. Not only that, Clay, a freelance photographer, already had an established career in California. It was the obvious right decision—and I was waiting for him to finish so I could let him know that I was pleased, not hurt. The Bay Area is fewer time zones away from Washington than France. Besides, it's always been my not-so-secret desire that one day we'd all—my husband and myself, my son and his family—wind up back in northern California, the fractured family reconstituted and made whole.
But then he said something that nearly caused me to pass out.
"We want to be near you. We're moving to Washington."
My son, my daughter-in-law, whom I've known and loved since she was 16, and now with a baby—coming to a neighborhood near me
The Pleasure of Connection
A month later, they were here, living at our house until they found a place of their own—which they did, one mile away! Hugh and I were so overjoyed that we let go of the rent-stabilized apartment we'd been hanging on to in New York and moved all its furniture into their new home—our housewarming gift.