Uppermost House: Out standing in the road


PeterLewisTreehouseCMYKBy S. Peter Lewis

BN Columnist

I was a total mess when we dropped our daughter Amanda off at college in Virginia in August of 2010. After endlessly hugging her, with her new roommates and their parents standing around awkwardly while I wept, I walked out into the rainy night, got in the car, drove a few feet and then stopped the car and ran back to her room. My wife Karen rolled her eyes and stayed in the car. After another hug and the inevitable prayer, my daughter pried me off her and looked me square in the eyes and told me that I’d be okay and that I should be brave and drive back to Maine with Mom.

Just five years, nine months, 16 days, a pile of money, and two degrees later, Amanda was scheduled to arrive home on another rainy evening, and I was pacing around the house like an expectant father. She was moving back in with us for an undetermined awhile so she could study for a national certification exam in something medical that involves big Latin words and bones and joints and connective tissues (e.g., sinew) and stuff like that which I understand on only the most rudimentary and pragmatic levels, such as: “Why do my knees hurt when I go trail running a few days in a row?” followed by, “Well, Dad, you are 56 years old and you have an awful lot of miles on those knees and so your cartilage…oh, never mind, take some ibuprofen and talk to me in the morning.”

Anyway, even though the empty-nest gig had been pretty sweet for the previous 2,116 days, Karen and I were delighted to welcome our beloved daughter back home again; although it did put a minor crimp in the whole “Let’s put Mandy’s room on Airbnb.com” idea.

I had spoken with Mandy a week or so her departure from her flat in Buffalo, N.Y., and her biggest concern was whether she was going to be able to cram all of her stuff into her car and still be able to see. She knew that the whole “being able to look out the rearview mirror on the turnpike” thing was a big deal to me, and she promised she would align her snow tires in the back seat so she could still see through the holes.

Shortly after lunch on the Great Day, the text messages began with an enthusiastic “Leaving Buffalo!” (This, by the way, would be a much better city motto than their inane 2011 creation: “Buffalo. For Real.” At least Mandy’s version has an exclamation point.)

Thence, I followed my daughter vicariously for several pleasant hours past a host of great American cities: Utica, Schenectady, Springfield, Worcester; and then I finally heard the cheery news that she was successfully north of Portsmouth, which might as well be home, if you define home as: “I could walk there if I had to.” I was so excited.

Late that night, I found “Fryeburg!” flashing across my phone just after I got out of the shower, and realizing that was 10 minutes ago, I ran out of the house and into the middle of the street and stood there in the rain looking south with my arms outstretched, wearing just a towel, a bathrobe, and rubber barn boots. Several minutes passed and then I saw the right headlights through the fog and heard the familiar downshifting, and then there was my multi-degreed daughter, back in my arms again where she belonged.

Later that night, I wondered, as I so often do as I parse my odd days in my own rearview mirror, what those other drivers must have thought as they drove past me in the fog. “The police blotter or the opinion page,” I said to myself. “Either way, I’ll end up in the paper.”

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