August 14, 1999

I'm working on it ... I'm working on it ...

In the meantime, CLICK HERE to feast your eyes on the vast reserves of loveliness that is Daughter #1 ... and check back later.

Daughter #1 accidentally left her bottle of hair conditioner behind when she went home to TicTac a couple of days ago.

Specifically, she left her bottle of Pantene Pro-Ultra-V Deep Fortifying Treatment® ("For Hair So Healthy It Shines"). She also left half a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal®, a pair of white Old Navy® crew socks, an elastic Goody® hair band, and an empty Clearly Canadian *Oxygen-Enhanced* Water Beverage® container.

But it's that blasted bottle of hair conditioner that's been getting to me, the past couple of days.

I first discovered it as I blearily crawled into the shower at 5:30 a.m., the morning after she went home. Her flight had been delayed two hours the night before: it was well past midnight before David and I finally saw her safely onto the plane, and another hour after that before we made it back to The Castle and collapsed. Running on four hours of sleep and half a cup of sour coffee that morning, I stood in the shower desperately trying to wake up ... desperately trying to come up with a plausible excuse NOT to go to the office ("Hiya, Franz! I'm in FRANCE, OK?") ...

... and -- most of all -- desperately trying not to dwell on the fact that Daughter #1 was gone.

Or on the fact that I wasn't going to tiptoe into the kitchen for more coffee and see her curled up on our sofa, sound asleep, with her battered Snoopy in her arms and her crumpled pack of Marlboro Lights on the floor beside her.

Or on the fact that after a week of blissful mother-daughter togetherness, we were -- once again -- a thousand miles and 313 Zip Codes away from each other.

I was fine for a little while. The combination of shower and caffeine seemed to be doing the trick. But when I saw that bottle of Pantene Pro-Ultra-V Deep Fortifying Treatment® ("For Hair So Healthy It Shines") sitting in the window ... I lost it completely. It was like someone had drop-kicked me, right in the heart. I stood there holding her bottle of conditioner while shampoo dribbled into my face and my mouth ... and I gave in to a major Boo Hoo Moment.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

Our week together was not only the highlight of our summer ... it was the highlight, I think, of our relationship as mother and daughter.

A year ago I would have told you that this child was lost to me forever. Our relationship seemed damaged beyond repair. It's been two years since that horrible morning when I left my mind and lost my family, and in that time I have tried to make amends to all three of the Tots ... each in different ways, and with varying degrees of success ... but for a long time, Daughter #1 was the one most openly resistant to my efforts. Even after I had been "forgiven," there was still a wall between the two of us. (I would call the house to talk to the Tots and be informed that she was "too tired" to come to the phone.) The fact is that I was pretty sure I had fudked things up beyond any hope of healing, where Daughter #1 was concerned.

So this last week was like a gift to us both.

We didn't do much. David drove us around the Bay Area and we showed Jaymi the sights. We ate good Chinese food and bad Chinese food. We bought CDs in Berkeley and postcards in Chinatown. We took pictures of each other, with the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop. And we hung around The Castle, watching Ally McBeal and drinking Pepsi and looking at photo albums. We talked, a LOT ... about family, about her boyfriend, about her future plans, about the reasons things happened the way they did. ("I am so sorry," I said to her. "I know," she replied.)

She took a bus and came to visit me at my office a couple of times, and I proudly introduced her to Franz, to The Human Resources Director Person, to The DRIP and The SCROD and The UPS Guy and basically to anyone who stood still long enough for me to make the introductions. I wanted everyone in the whole damn BUILDING to meet this marvelous, gorgeous, poised, absolutely perfect specimen of daughterhood.

I found myself continually looking for reasons to touch her ... an arm casually slung around her shoulders, a kiss on her cheek when she was sleeping, brushing her hair out of her eyes in the restaurant.

I worried that she would be bored, especially on the days when David and I worked and she stayed here alone in The Castle, but she wasn't. She read, she slept, she watched crappy daytime TV, she played "Slingo," she talked to her boyfriend on the phone, she washed our dishes and laundered our towels and watched our neighbors being arrested ... and basically seemed to revel in her Alone Time.

And I worried that our clean and sober lifestyle might seem, to her, like an indictment of choices she's making ... or, worse, that she might find "Sober Mom" to be zero fun, compared to the old "Let's Drink a Bunch of Cheap Chablis and Drive Around Listening to Metallica" Mom of two or three years ago ... and then how was I going to convince her that sober and responsible beats sick and dysfunctional, any day? But she listened to our non-lectures without complaint or resistance, and she seemed to absorb a lot of what we were saying to her, and she went away from the whole thing  --  I think  --  I HOPE  --  with proof that not only does life get BETTER when you're not drinking, but that the lives of everyone around you get better, as well.

As evidenced by the fact that I can afford to buy her plane tickets to California, now that I'm not blowing $160 a month on cheap chablis.

All in all: it was seven days of maternal bliss.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

But the week just passed too quickly, and in the blink of an eye we were standing at Gate 8, tearfully hugging each other goodbye. And the next morning I was standing in my shower, blubbering over a bottle of hair conditioner.

So I did the only logical thing I could do at that particular moment. I pulled myself together, wiped my face, blew my nose, rinsed the shampoo out of my hair ...

... and squirted a big healthy dollop of Pantene Pro-Ultra-V Deep Fortifying Treatment® onto the top of my head.

I was still sad. I still missed my kid. But my hair was so healthy, it ...

...  well. YOU know.



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