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Girls Gone Wild Memorial

1 May

bird

The narrow wooden gate opened and we fell silent for a moment. Stepping through the gate and onto the huge deck, we took in the view, the ocean, the caldera, the little white houses on the slope of the mountain, the breeze, the birds that chirped all around and wandered along the breakfast bar, in search of breadcrumbs. It was almost too much. It had been very, very long since I’d seen something so beautiful. Long enough to forget that beauty like this existed.

Twelve hours earlier, I had taken my Boy to see the fireworks. It was his first Independence Day that he could really grasp and might actually remember, now that he was almost three. He was so happy and excited, and he fell into a deep peaceful sleep on our way home. Straight to bed. No shower or teeth brushed. That could all wait.

On tiptoes, I made the final arrangements. Washed the dishes. Checked my bag for passport and ticket. In a couple of hours my mom would be coming over to stay with my son and I would be off to Santorini, a place that my only connection to was M. It was the money she’d left us. It was the directions she’d given. To go to where she was at 18, when everything was possible and there was no glass ceiling to life. To where she’d been hoping to go with J, between treatments, before she ran out of time. It was a carefree spring break. It was a trip down memory lane. It was our Girls Gone Wild Memorial.

Like he was synced with my plans, two minutes before my alarm went off at 1:00 am, my Boy woke up with a bad dream. And that was that. He remembered suddenly that I was leaving. He was beside himself, clinging to my shirt, hysterical. Finally I had to go. So I did, and left him crying with my mom, telling myself to trust her.

Taxi with E. Picking up J. Meeting G and the airport. Us four. We used to be five.

Tickets, passports, security, duty free, overpriced coffee. The excitement was building up. If only my mother would text me to say things were OK. They’re sleeping, I told myself. And then the flight, laughing hysterically, talking way too loudly and being inappropriate. Landing in Athens, layover, freaking out since my mom hadn’t texted yet. Finally hearing from her. Everything’s fine, I shouldn’t have worried. Boarding. More inappropriateness. Landing. Finding our driver. More inappropriateness… And then traffic, and lots of it…

By the time we got to the hotel, we’d been on the road for almost ten hours and were exhausted. But then that gate opened, and from that moment on, there were no worries. No crying children and fretting over them. It was just peaceful and lovely. And by lovely I mean beautiful, but also full of love.

black sand

If I could possibly be less cynical, I’d say she was there with us, M, laying on the black sand, drinking smoothies and cocktails, dipping her feet into the frozen infinity pool, enjoying the out of season weather, assuring it would never get too warm, rolling her eyes at the look on my face when I saw a lobster on my plate for the first time, and had to ask J to “deal with it”.

She would have chatted endlessly with Vicki, the almost over friendly receptionist that made it her life mission to assure we had the best possible time, ate the best possible food, and sweetly joked about her tendency to eat too much. “There is no moderation in Santorini!” She’d said. M would have loved that.

The end of the last day, standing on the deck again, looking at the water glistening in the sun, I wanted to cry. It was an end to our trip. And though I knew there would be others, I couldn’t be sure that M would be there for the rest. So vivid in my heart, the way she had been in Santorini. Please, I thought, stay with me. Don’t fade away into a distant memory. As we stepped into the taxi that would take us to the airport I clung to her, like a child clinging to his mother’s shirt. But it was time to part, again. And I realized that I could probably continue parting with her forever. Saying goodbye again and again, just as it had been when she was still here.

Her birthday is coming up on Tuesday. Will I be saying goodbye once more? Maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe instead of saying goodbye, I should welcome her memory into my life, as a permanent tenant, that lives forever and never goes on vacation.

I should.

And I will.

But not just yet.

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