There is a song that plays on the radio, “Upside Down” by Jack Johnson, as we begin a long drive home. There are tears that I’m trying to keep, unsuccessfully, from leaking out of my eyes. There is a scratchy Dunkin Donuts napkin I use to wipe them away. There are memories tied to this song, of Youngest Son as a toddler, playing with his sisters, all three of them loving on each other.
There is a road behind us that leads back to Montreal, to eight days of all five of us together. There were perfect moments, and most definitely there were imperfect moments. We bickered about who would sleep where, who was taking too long in the bathroom, where we would eat. But there was hand-holding as we walked and explored. For one glorious full week, we just were.
There is a cafe near Notre Dame where the croissants are almost always just out of the oven, the coffee is strong, and the family that runs it makes you want to be friends with them.
There is a long wooden pew about twelve rows back from the altar inside of Notre Dame Basilica, where we all sat, taking in the splendor in silence and bathed in blue light. There were whispers and contemplation.
There is a little second story crepe restaurant where the stairs leading to it are etched in different languages, all saying “hello,” and on the walls are hung dozens of empty picture frames. There are jars upon jars of Nutella lining the hallway, the shelves, the ceiling rafters. There is a man who stands behind the counter and in front of three large crepe makers, making crepes look like art.
There is a cobble stone street that fills with puddles after a summer downpour, where we found favorite flavors of gelato, like maple cookie, lemon, and mint chocolate cookie.
There are numerous memories built with strangers in a strange city, that at the end of the week didn’t feel strange anymore.
There are suitcases filled with dirty laundry, stacked in the back of my Honda Pilot. There are bags stuffed with souvenirs and stacks of receipts to declare at the border.
There is a long road ahead of us. Outside the city limits there are fields and farms and silos and green and space. There are hours upon hours to pass in the car.
There is no time.
There is a calendar on my kitchen wall. It marks three weeks until we make another long drive.
There will be five of us in the car again, with hours upon hours to pass. And yet it will not pass slowly enough.
There will be four of us on the drive home.
There is a college in Washington, DC that Oldest Daughter will call home. There is a bed in a room in a dorm that she will retire to everyday.
There is a bed in a room in a house that will be empty until Thanksgiving break.
There is a piece of my heart that she will take with her to that college. There are all those vacation memories and laughter and time together wrapped up in that piece of my heart. There are tears and words I cannot say, but that I hope she knows. There is “I love you” and “I’m so proud of you” and “please call me” stuck in my throat. There is a landslide of emotions threatening to spill over.
And then there will be time. Time in between texts and phone calls and FaceTime and breaks. There will be waiting. Waiting for her to come home so my heart can be whole again.
There is happiness juxtaposed in all this, because I know this is where she wants to be, and I know she is ready. There is the feeling of a job well done.
There is Love.
Most of all, there is Love.