The next phase of my life unfolded rather quickly. I now kinda, sorta, hopefully had a job – nothing had officially gone through Human Resources yet. I was moving into my own apartment. And two days later beginning teacher inservice for my first teaching assignment, 7thgrade Special Education.
I got the keys to my apartment on a Friday. Cassey was driving out that same day from Van Alstyne to bring some of my things, none of which were packed because I hadn’t anticipated everything happening so quickly. She was going to stay with me my first night. A relief so I wouldn’t have to spend my first night alone in an empty apartment. My mother and father were going to be driving out on Saturday to bring the rest of my clothes and other belongings. I had no apartment furniture, so there wasn’t much for them to bring, but I hoped they might gift me some of the extra items they had around the house. The carrot my father had been dangling out all summer was that he would help me furnish an apartment once I had landed a job. Maybe if they were in good spirits, they may even let me pick out a couch or something.
Signing the official lease to my own apartment was the most adult thing I had ever done. I had no co-signers, no help financially, it was just me. I had gone from a college graduate living in her parents’ house working as a waitress to a woman with a career and her own place. It felt good. Really good. Until I wrote out the rent check with all the deposits. Most of my savings were tapped out with one signature. My next few months were going to be tight, but my freedom was priceless.
I walked from the leasing office to my apartment. Put the key in the lock and opened the door to my future. I stepped in, closed the door behind me and took it all in. I breathed in and out. This place instantly felt like home. I surveyed the big, empty living room and imagined all the fun I would have decorating it. I could see myself now in a couple months lounging in my cozy living room, curled up on my stylish and plush couch reading a book.
I then stepped into the dining room and I could see my friends enjoying themselves as we played games and enjoyed each other’s company. The smell of all the amazing food I would be serving wafting through the air. Flashes of the faces I loved most feeling at home in my apartment filled my soul. I continued to walk through the apartment room by room envisioning the life I had been dreaming about all summer long. Each room further solidifying to me that my dreams were more than a vision, but my very close reality.
Just as my imaginative tour was wrapping up, my cell phone rang. It was Cassey. She was here. I ran out to meet her, excited to show her my new home. She had a small Chevy Cobalt and wasn’t able to bring much. I didn’t care, I was just appreciative for her company and support.
“I made sure that I brought your TV dude. Your dad didn’t want me to take it because he said they could just bring it in the morning. But I wanted to make sure you had your TV,” Cassey informed me.
I laughed and thanked her as we unloaded the TV and other items from her car. Cassey’s approval of my new apartment made me feel even better about my selection. I had never gone apartment hunting before and had to take care of all the details on my own. With no help from my parents and no experience. Sure I didn’t have a lot of options in my budget and on such short notice. But this place seemed to be perfect for my situation.
We met Kendrae for dinner at Texas Roadhouse and celebrated my new beginning. I could feel the love. And all the stress and tension from the worst summer of my life began to lift off my shoulders. I had willed myself to this point, and all my persistence was paying off. This was the first day of the rest of my life and I couldn’t wait to see what was in store.
Cassey and I finished the night with a glass of wine and some Carrie Bradshaw. We made a pallet on the carpet in the bedroom, had one pillow a piece and slept on the floor. I was exhausted, so I fell asleep quickly but peacefully.
My parents rolled in about 9 that next morning. Cassey and I were both surprised at the lack of furniture my parents brought with them. No couch, no dining table, no chairs. They brought two night stands, an end table, and a broken coffee table. And a dresser that I specifically asked them not to bring. Half of my clothes were missing along with some shoes, jewelry, and other personal items.
“Where’s my mattress?” I asked, confused.
“Oh we brought you this air mattress. I figured it would be more comfortable anyway,” my mother nonchalantly answered.
I stared at her. Then glanced at my father who hadn’t seemed to be listening. I shifted my gaze back on my mother, “So…you didn’t bring my bed? That was the main thing I asked for. That was kind of the point of you guys coming out here today. To bring my mattress and my clothes. Everything else I can do without.” I gazed at the long-bed trailer hitched to my father’s truck. The dresser and unnecessary tables took up about a quarter of the space. There was plenty of room for my mattress, box spring and bed frame.
It was clear neither my mother nor father were going to address my question. So I posed another. “Is the air mattress any good? I can’t remember the last time we even tried to blow it up.”
“I’m sure it’s fine, Sarah. Air mattresses are really comfortable. Plus we brought the frame you can put it on,” my mother said with a smile.
I glanced at Cassey and could see she shared my bewilderment at the items they chose to bring. And more so the crucial pieces that they left back in Van Alstyne. I kept my mouth shut, but couldn’t shake the question in my mind. Why didn’t they bring all my belongings? Was it because I was moving to Longview, the city where Kendrae also lived?
With the four of us moving the few items from my father’s truck to my empty apartment, we were done quickly. Cassey said her goodbyes, and headed out. My father offered to take me out to lunch and to the grocery store before they left. I was caught off guard by the gesture, but accepted.
After returning back home with some groceries and a few kitchen necessities, it was time for us to part ways. I found myself sad that they were leaving, and I couldn’t justify why. The entire summer all I could do was dream about my freedom and the day I could leave. And now that it was here, I was filled with sadness. Deep, overwhelming sadness. Maybe because now I was truly on my own, no longer a little girl, embarking on a new season of life. Or maybe because I still so desperately sought their approval, and hadn’t received it. Perhaps it was due to all the brokenness between us that had not shown any signs of improvement. Manifested in the scraps they brought me to “furnish” my apartment. Maybe it was all three.
The three of us stood in the parking lot outside of my apartment and shared a bittersweet moment. Regardless of the recent events that rocked our relationship, I was still their daughter. Even in my fury of emotions and confusion, I still loved my parents and wanted nothing more than to make them proud. A mark I had clearly fallen short of. In true family fashion, the three of us exchanged words that skirted around the truth. Expressing nothing of our true feelings.
“It’s a nice apartment, Sar,” my father reassured me. “Here’s some money so you can get a table and whatever.”
Tears welled up in my eyes as I hugged my father. “Thanks, Dad,” was all I could muster without bursting into tears. An emotion my father does not deal with.
“We love you,” my mother said as she hugged me. “We’ll text you once we make it back home.”
“I love you guys too. Thanks for everything,” I choked out, suppressing the tears as best I could.
I watched the truck drive away through blurry eyes. I waved goodbye and faked a smile. It all seemed so final. I tried to tell myself that I would see them again soon. But deep down, I didn’t believe it. This parting felt like an ending. I wrapped myself with my own arms and rushed back to my apartment. Keeping my head down so others wouldn’t see my streaming tears and snotty nose. I flung the door open and collapsed against the wall, hugging my knees. And I sobbed.
I mourned the ending of the worst chapter of my life. I mourned my tattered bond with my family. Fearful that even a defibrillator wouldn’t be able to resuscitate our pulseless relationship. I mourned my childhood as I was quickly becoming an adult. I panicked at the fact that for once, I did NOT have it all together. I was unsure about a lot in my life. And I was scared. So I let my tears splash on the floor and squeezed my knees tighter against my chest. I allowed myself to grieve all the things I had lost in hopes of being able to start fresh.
And somewhere in the midst of making a puddle on the ground and approaching dehydration, a closing line to a favorite movie of mine sounded in my head. I could hear Sandra Bullock’s voice billowing:
Beginnings are usually scary, endings are usually sad, but it’s what’s in the middle that counts. So when you find yourself at the beginning, just give hope a chance to float up. And it will.
I found myself at a simultaneous sad ending and scary beginning. My onslaught of emotions now made a little more sense. I forced myself to take a deep breath, and I slowly rose from the ground. There I was, giving hope a chance.
Author’s note: I found myself putting off sitting down to write this post. Excusing my lack of writing with I’m tired, I’m busy with other things, and I’m not feeling it. But I’m going to be completely transparent with you. At the root of it, I did not want to write this post because I did not want to sort through the painful emotions so tightly associated with this event in my life. I can still feel the ripping in my heart as my parents drove away. The wound is still there and continues to ache. Time certainly helps, but it doesn’t eradicate pain.
So this is me, showing up late, but showing up. In my pain four years ago and in my pain today. It’s okay not to have it all together. Grief has its own timeline and it looks differently for everyone. And just because something hasn’t bothered you for years, doesn’t mean it can’t creep up and catch you unexpectedly. Allow yourself to grieve and be sad. Don’t mask your sadness. Let it out. Sit with it. Give yourself time. Don’t set unrealistic expectations for dealing with the mess that comes with life. And if nothing else give yourself grace. We could all use more of it.