Friday, November 28, 2008

We Gather Together.

Since Daughter was born, my family has spent every Thanksgiving having a picnic on the beach. We do this for a number of reasons, the most relevant being that we’re a little strange. This year it rained the day before Thanksgiving but the day itself was clear and windy. Within minutes of arriving, Daughter found a girl exactly her age playing on the beach with her father, both of them staying out of their house so that her infant brother could nap. Daughter and this girl quickly discovered common passions for doing cartwheels and squealing at algae and her father and Consort had been in the same business in the past, so the four of them spent the better part of the afternoon down by the water, talking and frolicking. I didn’t mind, as this gave me plenty of time to read, eat the stinky blue cheese that only I like and glare threateningly at the seagulls who were trying to annex our sandwiches.

I usually don’t start ideas by saying “There are two kinds of people…”, because the only logical answer is “Yes, Quinn. There are two kinds of people. Lazy people who begin thoughts that way, and people who actually put some reflection into what they’re writing.” But, here goes. There are two kinds of kids: Stay and Go. Let me explain.

As a parent, one of the things you learn about your child as they grow is whether or not they are temperamentally inclined to be near you or not. Stays go to college nearby; they arrange to work in the city in which they grew up; their idea of heaven would be to buy their childhood house from their parents and live there forever. Go people might love their family dearly, but they’re born wearing walking shoes. College is chosen at least partially because it’s as unlike home as possible and graduate school or the first job is three time zones beyond college. The Go person dreams of filled passports and inoculations against exotic diseases. A Go would see the predictability of the Stay life as something akin to being buried alive.

I know this is overly simplistic. Most people’s lives are a combination of choices they make and choices made for them. Someone inclined to travel might spend his entire life living at home town taking care of a relative. Someone who longs for the comfort of her first home might fall in love with someone in the military and never live anywhere longer than two years. But as I was cooking up this theory, I started quizzing friends about whether they thought their kids were Stay or Go. It was fun how definitively the mother would answer the question.

“My daughter will go, but she’ll come back and visit. My son will stay, because he likes clean laundry more than autonomy.”

“My two older kids will be around. My baby would go to boarding school for second grade if I let her.”

One friend sighed of her adult daughter, “Oh, she thinks she’s a Go, but she’s a Stay, and I’ve got the guest room to prove it.”

I rarely talk about Daughter’s personality quirks, because it’s her personality and not my trove of writing material, but I will tell you this. My daughter will go. She will go away to college, and then she will go further than that. When she calls us, my first question won’t be “How are you?” but “What day is it there?” She has been wired since birth to stare outwards and plan adventures. I don’t take it any more personally than I take her wavy hair or her thin feet -- two other traits she didn’t get from me. I lived at home until I was 21. Until I was thirty I never lived farther than five miles from the house in which I grew up, then I moved to San Francisco for three months and came right back to Los Angeles. I am SUCH a Stay.

At the beach, I watched Daughter frolic with her new friend and I thought about the time when she won’t be with us on Thanksgiving because she’ll be in some part of the world with no word for “Turkey” or “Green bean casserole.” And then I thought about the bloodbath in Mumbai. On the first day of the siege, the criminals had taken hostages, looking specifically for people with British or American passports. Mumbai is the economic heart of India, so it’s safe to say that some of those British or American hostages were there for work, and perhaps some of them had sighed in dismay when they were posted there by their companies, preferring the comforts of home. But some of those hostages were in Mumbai because their souls had been whispering “Go” for as long as they could remember, and India was where their journey had taken them. Then again, before I start wishing Daughter were the kind to stay around her parents, I’d best remember that there were victims who were residents of Mumbai, killed in their own city. Homebodies live in the same dangerous world that adventurers do.

Right now, I have Daughter near enough to touch. Right now, if she’s going somewhere she still has to get my permission. Right now, everyone in the extended family is reasonably healthy. Right now, there are no nasty reviews on Amazon of my book. Right now I don’t have a copy of the quarterly report on my mutual fund. If I start thinking about the millions of right nows that might be ahead of me, and all the myriad ways they can go wrong, I get dizzy and I get frightened. So this year, I’m thankful for right now and I’m going to try to live in it as much as I can.


The sun had nearly set and the temperature was dropping fast. It was time to leave the beach. I packed up the food, throwing three Brussels Sprouts to the gulls for the pleasure of watching them squabble, and I walked over to my family.

“It’s time to go,” I said softly to Consort, but Daughter heard me. Enamored with her new friend and the beach, she wailed, “But I don’t want to go!”

I said, “Yeah, I don’t want to go, either. But it’s time.”

We said our goodbyes to the other family and, holding hands, walked back to the car to go home.

17 Comments:

Blogger Not The Rockefellers said...

Quinn, I really hope you and your family had a great day. It sounds like you did.

I have to tell you this particular post had me softly crying. Especially for those in Mumbai.

My daughter is a go. She makes friends easily and develops "life-long" relationships in an instant.If we are together,though and a friend calls to go somewhere, she considers me and stays because she does not want me to be alone. I don't want her to do that for me. It's nice now that's she's 9 but I don't want to re-enact Grey Gardens with her in the future.

Thank you for your beautiful, thought provoking post.

Peace - Rene

12:29 PM  
Blogger Yvonne said...

I have four kids - the oldest is a Stay - lives about 40 minutes away - married a local girl, and now has a fabulous job at McDonald Corp. He won't be going far. 2nd is a Go - and has been since he walked off at 9 (returned, of course) went to another state for college - and now lives in The Netherlands - 7 hour time difference - and not about to move back. 3rd is a "Won't Go" but she will someday - and doubtful that it will be far. She dreams of being a world traveler, but in my heart, I know she's a Stay. Youngest - not sure, but probably a Stay. He's only 15, and pretty attached to us. Never really thought about this before - thanks for giving me food for thought!

12:36 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Who said...

I thank God every single day that both of my children were Stays. Our daughter is married with the heart of my heart grandson that we adore and they live maybe 10 minutes from our house. Our son has his own apartment but it's not more than 15 minutes away. Neither will ever move away.

I was a Go. I went to college in a different state and never looked back. I still like to Go although it's nice to have a place to Stay in when I return.

My husband was a definite Stay until I turned him into a partial Go and now he likes to Go too!

So, so glad my children are Stays!

3:19 PM  
Blogger Michaéle said...

I'm famous for saying to my son, "Please marry an orphan girl," because I don't want him to go away. Since he will be going to college next fall, this subject is everpresent on my mind. When we were thinking about colleges, he would get quiet and somber until I finally said, "Just throw out some names of where you are interested and we'll go from there." He looked up at me and said, "I don't want to go far from home." I wonder if this is from my years of conditioning but I'm beginning to think he's just a Stay at Heart.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Swistle said...

I always thought I was a Go: I went to the farthest-away college my parents would allow (2 days' drive), and after college I moved, as you say, 3 time zones away. Then I had a baby, and I moved back near my parents, and I'm a solid Stay. I don't know why I thought I was a Go: I've never been out of the country, and new places unsettle me. I spent the first semester at my far-away college being so homesick I could hardly stand it.

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Kari said...

Q, this was a truly terrific post. As a Go, through and through, I definitely see the two camps. I admire the Stayers just as much as I identify with the Goers.

I love reading your writing.

8:58 PM  
Anonymous Maria said...

We are the Stay Family...I lived at home until I got married at 28, now live only five miles from my mother. My Daughter, 12, swears she's a Stay, will commute to college, live at home after graduation, and never marry. My Son, eight, I think might be a Stay. He's quite the cuddler and always comes up to me lookig for "the love". Husband is a Stay, because he won't live any farther than he can easily drive to his season tickets at Giants Stadium. But as long as my loved ones stay in my heart, and I in theirs, geography really doesn't make that much of a difference. Plus if the kids turn out to be Gos, it might afford me cool places to vacation!

9:05 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

Great theory. My daughter is a obvious Go. She's been going forever, sleep-away camp, sleepovers at friend's houses, never home, got a job on her 16th b'day. She's going to go off to a foreign country the summer ofter college graduation and I'll not hear from her again but in cryptic letters with odd looking stamps.

Her twin brother... I don't think I'm ever going to get rid of him. He's such a stay it's scary. He wants to attend college in Boston so he can come home when he's hungry. I don't think he'll ever move as far away as NYC. He's my giant albatross and I wear him with pride.

Me, I'm a go. I left home at 17, traveled the world for 2 years, came home to LA and went off to college in Colorado, then graduate school in Boston, where I remain 30 years hence. I've left Boston 2 times to try out other places and have returned within a couple of years. Boston is not my home, but it is my comfort zone and leaving here doesn't seem plausable these days. I want to live in a warmer place in my dotage, but leaving Boston? WAY to scary.

11:21 PM  
Anonymous Danny said...

What a gorgeous post. And a great reminder to be thankful for Right Now, a place I also want to try to live in as much as possible.

I grew up a Stay and then one day, seemingly out of the blue, became a Go. I ultimately morphed back into a Stay (with secret Go fantasies). My wife is an unapologetic die-hard Stay and my daughter is clearly a Go.

5:33 PM  
Blogger miss cavendish said...

What else to say, but "You GO, girl!" A truly lovely piece.

8:06 PM  
Blogger Robin Raven said...

How beautiful! :) What a great post!

I'm glad you had a lovely Thanksgiving! I may have driven by you! haha I went on a long drive up the beach and then up the PCH. I have odd Thanksgiving traditions, too. haha :)

It's so important--and sometimes so hard--to live in the now!

Take care,
Robin

12:43 AM  
Blogger Dawn Maria said...

With a high schooler in the house, this post hit really close to home. I'm a Go, and I'm pretty sure my oldest son will be one also. It's too soon to tell about the younger one.

After nearly 16 years of parenting, I find myself very tired. This stage of teenager/almost adult mothering has such a different set of challenges and wonderful moments than those from the boys' younger years. It has begun to occur to me that they won't be here in the house forever.

I have mixed feelings about that. It's exciting to see them grow. It's terrifying to release them to the world. It's odd to imagine a daily life not affected by school schedules and trips to Michael's for projects. I'll have to make sure I savor each moment while I can.

6:53 AM  
Anonymous chiquita said...

I was a Go but now I'm a Stay. (I guess it was a phase.)

So sad but also somewhat comforting that 2 of the victims were father and daughter. At least they were together, but I feel so sad for the mom/wife left behind and the remaining sibling.

This is a really lovely post. Thanks.

7:48 AM  
Blogger Jakarta Rocks said...

This post really spoke to me. I am definitely a Go. I was 8 when I asked how I could escape the town my mother had lived in her entire life (and still does) - University was the answer.

I'm married to a go and we live on another continent than we grew up on and have 3 kids. The oldest is 9 and tells me that wherever we are, she intends to be on the other side of the world (which will probably be Australia because there is no way we are going back). When she was 8 I took her to London and Paris because she had always loved Madeline books (and the holiday location was her choice). After 4 days in London she asked if there was a decent university in England. So now she has her sights set on Oxford.

The youngest two are very close to each other, but I still think they will Go. They used to say they would live next door to each other, now it's 19 houses apart. They have picked Switzerland as their home. Great skiing and they figure we can join them on family holidays (as we were there last xmas).

When we visit people in Australia, as we drive out the driveway, we have conversations like - "they will still be in that driveway/house/job/school etc when we return in 1, 2 5, 10 years right" - yep.............the kids just sigh and state - that is SOOO SAD, how can anyone actually like doing that? Beats me....sounds like some sort of torture.

Luckily we are surrounded by expats (and yes we knew some people who recently moved to Mumbai). We are very fortunate, we don't know anyone who doesn't want to be an expat.....most expats chose to do it - and love it. It can be a very fulfilling life....full of adventure and excitement. Plus - you get to appreciate previously normal things in life, which is another great thing about being a GO.

3:09 AM  
Anonymous Emily's mama said...

Quinn, I LOVE your blog. I can't remember who told me about it but I'm very grateful to that person. I always await your new posts, but this one really touched me deeply. My sweet daughter is only 10 months so I don't yet know if she is a STAY or a GO, but I just want her to be happy so it doesn't matter to me as long as she has a phone and email...LOL. Take care. I can't wait for your book!!!

7:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As always, your post was great. It's nice to know there are other mother's out there that have the same fears. Raising three and now raising a granddaughter, mine were all Go's, as I am. A CA native, I once thought I would hold drivers license's from each 50 states. Only ended up with 5, but, it's a start. Let your children live their dreams. They may stay or go, but they will always know you are there for them.

10:16 AM  
Blogger f.B said...

"Homebodies live in the same dangerous world that adventurers do."

brilliant.

7:29 AM  

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