There has been so much criticism for my generation’s parenting skills – for our hovering and our helicoptering and bubble wrapping our kids. Certainly I have done enough of that. But somehow my four kids have managed to zigzag through the helicopter blades and pop the bubbles in the wrap with a loud smack.
I thought about my hovering while trying to sleep on my youngest daughter’s couch in Montreal, listening to the chaotic street sounds outside of the stifling hot apartment we’d rented for her first year of university. When friends had asked how long I intended to stay with Lily to get her set up I squelched the numbers a bit –a little over a week, I’d say, rather then the truth – twelve days.
Lily’s brother, Hudson, had accompanied us to Montreal on our red eye flight from home. After trying to get back his lost sleep in the rental car in the Ikea parking lot, while I was studying other mother/daughter sets shopping together, and Lily was studying the Swedish twenty-nine dollar desks and twelve dollar lamps, he uncomplainingly helped load the goods up two flights of stairs to her tiny apartment and put the Aspvik and the Leirvik together with only two cold showers to stop his Alberta blood from boiling in the late August Quebec heat. Having passed up the Ikea mattresses out in the suburbs, mattresses now eluded us in downtown Montreal, and while our search continued we slept on pumped up camping mattresses from Canadian Tire.
On the third day after we had arrived my husband, Will, flew in for the September long weekend, promising to whisk me away from my restless sleep near the floor in the stifling apartment to an air-conditioned hotel room. Will and I wanted to explore the French-ness of Montreal, kick back and enjoy a tête-à-tête and some joie de vivre over aperitifs on the café patios of Rue Crescent, giving Lily an to opportunity to rendezvous on St. Dennis with its je ne sais quoi appeal, while she had her frère, Hudson, to watch out for her.
While Will and I sipped our icy drinks during what was supposed to be a pleasant, if slightly melancholy soiree, in our carefully chosen Rue Crescent café, he said that he didn’t know if he could do it, he wasn’t sure he could actually leave Lily in Montreal. “I know she lived without us in Rome at sixteen,” he said, his cowboy boot drumming nervously against the patio floor, “but she still had that host family keeping track of her.”
That comment was the coup de grace to our joie de vivre. We returned to the sanctuary of our cool hotel room away from the mounting noises of the crowded street. Lily and Hudson phoned us as we entered the lobby, wandering if they could come up for a late movie and to raid the mini-bar. Will, so relieved to have them there with us, especially his eighteen-year-old baby, who cuddled with him, and called him Daddy when she asked if he could order them up a pepperoni pizza, let them find a space on our crowded bed and choose the flick.
During those few days together we drove to Montreal’s Little Italy where Lily stocked up on olive oil and bought a basil plant. We ate more pepperoni pizza in the Latin quarter and toured most of Old Montreal by attempting to find parking there.
Lily proclaimed that she loved Montreal. Word, Hudson said in agreement, using one of the kid’s expressions from an era before my time that I am fond of – word, I told them. While Lily’s huge adventure and lifestyle change was to start university in Montreal, Hudson’s upcoming adventure was an immediate plan to move from our home in Calgary to Vancouver, where he’d share a house with his band members. He and I were leaning against the rental car in another no-parking zone, while Lily and Will went up to the apartment to take measurements for a piece of wood to hold the slide-up window locked on the inside from bad guys on the fire escape, when Hudson got the call he’d been waiting for. His crew had found a place. It was far from the action of downtown Vancouver and was going to cost more then they hoped (and likely more than they would discover they could afford), but despite that he was elated. That sounds great, I said. Wow.
Wow, indeed. Screw all that talk of hovering and helicopter-ing and bubble wrap. My kids were leaving me. Soon, for the first time since the summer of 1984 it would just be Will and I at home. French women link arms when they walk in the streets of Montreal. I wondered if Lily would mind if I carried her?
(Final few installments of Text Me, Love Mom coming soon.)