I like the word flurry. Flurries are chaotic but benign, exciting but ultimately of little consequence. Flurry sounds fun; it rhymes with scurry. Scurry might be the most playful word I know.
I just ate a Dairy Queen Blizzard, so of course I’m thinking about a McFlurry (MacDonald’s knock-off version of a Blizzard). When she was three, Sophie and I took a father-daughter date—we shared an M&M McFlurry and spent twenty minutes in the playground at MacDonald’s. We had the place to ourselves. I joined her crawling through the greasy, sticky tubes. She, like a small dog, me like a huge worm. When I put her to bed she couldn’t sleep—too jacked on sugar.
The Blizzards tonight were a treat. A celebration of sorts. It was a great day. We finished our farm work early. I had the day off work. A plumbing problem shut us down. No running water. Because of Covid, the local businesses won’t share their bathrooms with our staff. It’s like a snow day in August. Except I didn’t need to shovel snow. I went running, and then I worked on a farm.
As a final summer hoorah, my kids got a gig. A meat-farming family went on vacation. They needed someone to do the chores. Sophie and Eli were recommended by a friend. Twice a day they milk the goats, feed and water the turkeys, chickens, dogs, pigs and a fat, fluffy bunny. It’s a big job. Two hours twice a day. Tonight, Susan and I went along to help. I suck at milking.
At Dairy Queen, the family in line in front of us didn’t wear masks. They stood near the cash register awaiting their order, breathing tainted air everywhere I wanted to be. I found this unbelievable. Selfish, sociopathic. Like there’s something wrong in their brains. Like they’re the people who think Oprah is eating children. Gettysburg is a libertarian town, Trump country. But the residents wear masks. We’re a community that cares for each other, everyone does their part. Except for that family in front of us.
Next Thursday, Susan and I drop off Sophie at the University of Vermont. And just like that, she won’t live with us anymore. Our nest is emptying. If things go according to plan, we won’t see her again until Thanksgiving. She’s not allowed off campus, and we’re not allowed on. Enforced maturity. No weekends at home to regroup. Parent visits not part of her support structure. Extreme. But just as likely, she’ll be home by October and finish her semester on Zoom.
The build-up to the start of college is in its eighth month. As Sophie completed her applications in January, my sadness increased. With school, work, rugby, band and friends, it was like she already moved away. She popped in for a random dinner, and I saw her in the morning when I woke her up for school. My sense of loss felt overwhelming.
Since the pandemic started, we eat all our meals together. We hang out as a family and talk. We go for walks and bike rides. Eat Blizzards. We all gather in the same room after dinner to fiddle with our various devices. I’ve seen more of Sophie in the past six months than I have in the past six years.
I’m ready for her to go. I’ll miss her terribly, but after getting to know her again so well, I realize she has the independence, maturity, and motivation to live alone as an adult. She’s ready, and I don’t want to hold her back. Hopefully, she’ll get through this semester in Vermont, and then the next. And then maybe we’ll actually have a vaccine and things will return to normal. But if she does wind up back at home in a couple of months, well, that won’t be so terrible either.