A long goodbye, a fond farewell

I had to go to the Chandler Downtown Library to settle a debt my children and I had accrued over several months, perhaps years.

While paying the fines I told the gentleman behind the information counter how I had routinely brought my four kids there since my teenagers were little tykes - for story time and to stock up on books and movies every summer. His sympathetic smile and kind words indicated his understanding of my gratitude for that institution's role in my family's well-being for so many years.

"I'm old-fashioned," I declared. "I still prefer books and newspapers to all this computer stuff." I indicated all the technology usurping more and more floor space.

I was not to visit that library again. We were moving far from the realm of that colossal building with its broad windows letting in a refined degree of intense desert light; tree-lined courtyard with avenues created by concrete benches where you could sit a spell and peruse newly acquired tales; and friendly saguaros and lantanas edging the sidewalk.

Thus began my goodbye tour.

To mail a last package from my Arizona address I went to the downtown post office next, a place from which I had shipped all my Christmas packages, being at once cheap and traditional. To the gentleman there behind the counter, I exclaimed, "I still believe in the US postal office!"

"Well, that's one person!" he joked.

Au revoir to a perfectly plain and comfortable United States Postal Service building where I saw great diversity in my fellow citizens.

On Pentecost I helped out with our parish celebration, and fellow parishioners and volunteers continually came up to our family, wishing us well, expressing surprise that we were moving and that they would miss our presence. Some got emotional and so did I. It was a difficult parting; we had raised our family in the faith at Holy Spirit Parish, where three of our four were baptized, for 15 years. People had often come up to us after mass to assert just how much our kids had grown from the babes in arms who joined God's family years before.

Later that day my Moms' Group, begun with strangers who fast became dear friends, had a party. My artistic friend Holly,with whom I visited the UK in April 2015, generously hosted. Driving to her beautiful  home, I was feeling sad and wistful, most afraid of this good-bye. For within this group were the ladies who helped me raise my children during easy and trying times, who helped me fix myself when I was feeling lost, overwhelmed, uninspired, inept, besieged, or just plain tired and old. And their children have been for some time friends so invaluable to my own kids that they are family, cousins or siblings of the honorary kind, the bond growing stronger each year as they've passed through the stages of development from toddler to teenager - even as families became busier and some moved far away; moms went back to work; and those remaining stopped seeing each other as often for birthdays and holidays.

But we managed our farewell during this final gathering, said "until we meet again", and I cried only when the moms presented me with gifts I did not expect: a beautiful memory book of our families' time together, charming dangling earrings just my style, and a necklace meant to symbolize the unbroken chain of friendship.

There were more final face to face conversations with friends, one final park play date for my kids with friends who helped them get through their first and final year at a new school. At a bowling party I broke down as I looked into the face of a very dear comrade in the trenches of motherhood and then quickly and tightly embraced her. At a simple yet truly satisfying gathering of relatively new family friends at their home abutting coyote inhabited desert, I broke down for quite different reasons and found comfort in the husband's and wife's extraordinary empathy, reluctant to have to remove myself from such easy reach of it in the very near future. And I had to witness the last meeting of my son and his best friend from the Moms" Group (they've known each other since they were potty training), for I was the bad guy come to pick Berto up.

On the morning we left our little home in Arizona, I was at first more stoic than I had anticipated, perhaps too weary from cleaning and sorting and looking for little forgotten things and too many goodbyes, poignant or perfunctory, to cry that much. But then I choked up while walking a last short time in that little empty house that had sheltered all of our children during their babyhood. I went then to say goodbye to my Eucalyptus trees, two giants in the front, westward-facing yard that had sheltered us as best they could from the staggering Phoenix heat and who had provided me with the exotic green wreaths tinged with a hint of purple with which I adorned my door each autumn and winter. And I broke down as I hugged them (yes, hugged them). I prayed that whoever came after us would appreciate those lovely monoliths and never, ever think of cutting them down merely because they shed too much bark in a monsoon storm.


Nothing dries tears like adventure, however. I closed my car door with a damp face but by the time I opened it again at a gas station in Flagstaff, I was feeling the exhilaration of being on the road, driving the highway myself, and heading to a new home for my family.

Arizona holds many friends and memories and a permanent place in my mind and heart, but New Mexico is just next door and, after all, it too is an enchanting part of the great American Southwest.


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