DOWN HAMPSHIRE WAY
This month. Oh, this month. August of 2014.
I lost my two favorite women this month. I lost one to the great beyond. And I lost the other to the future.
Driving along I-90 in Massachusetts, past steeples, past early American farms, past verdant rolling hills, the brash sound of pop music and DJs’ banter poked at my ears till I finally took the hint from myself and turned off the radio in my rental Ford Escape. I needed some silence – not only to focus on roads I didn’t know in a car I didn’t know – but to absorb the seemingly sudden shift in my life.
On the heels of losing my mother, I had just left Rose to start her own life free of my careless cooking and my forgetful planning and my generally useless parenting to be a student at Hampshire College. After two days of shopping trips to Target and antique shops, meals at noodle houses, cheap diners, Tibetan cafes and hotels, exploring small Massachusetts towns, and cuddling in bed reading and watching old flicks, it was time to cut the cord.
“Welcome to Hampshire College.” There it was. The beginning of my end as Rosemary’s go-to gal. And the beginning of Rose’s beginning.
Thirty years ago when I “decorated” my first college dorm at Smith (incidentally, just 10 miles from Hampshire), I felt so lost. Suddenly surrounded by women who were the daughters of royalty, politicos, authors, painters, poets, inventors, celebrities of so many disciplines, I marveled as these women casually threw down fur rugs on their floors and their mothers hung curtains that matched their bedspreads and even painted or wallpapered their rooms. It never occurred to me that parents would come to school and help their kids settle in. Or that anyone would settle in with such luxury! Mind you, it didn’t sadden me. It just surprised me. I brought my yellow polyester comforter from boarding school, a few clothes (I’d been wearing uniforms for four years, I really didn’t know how to dress), and a poster I poached downstairs that was in my dorm’s freebie bin. My room was dark and always either too hot or too cold. The other students in general intimidated me. And I just never felt at home in college.
So it was with relief as I watched my little nesty goddess create a home away from home – with a rug and a throw pillow and a cute lamp and maps on the walls of places she’d traveled and pictures of her friends everywhere. It looked like she’d been staging college dorms all her life as she confidently created a warm and welcoming space – an electric tea pot from Sofie on top of the small fridge; her favorite books on the bookshelf; a small Buddhist altar on the windowsill; her small but quirkily charming wardrobe – mostly curated from consignment and vintage shops – inhabiting the locker-sized closet. After three hours of intense aesthetic focus, I sat on her bed and looked around and felt, well, I just felt so proud. And when I had to miss Parents’ Day because Jack called me home to help him start his restaurant, Rose hugged me and said, “It’s OK Mom. Just go. I love you, but I’ll be fine.”
I knew she’d be OK. Me? Not so much.
Rose walked me to the rental car, holding my hand.
“Will you just sit in the front seat as I program the GPS?” I asked her.
“Of course,” Rose said.
Then she did for me what I had done for her so many times 18 years ago.
She held me as I cried.
Pictured above, Rosemary with one of her best friends, Maddie (the girls met in kindergarten at The Valley School); Maddie with her mother, Anne; Rose in her new room; Rose and moiselle.