It’s funny how traditions start in a family. I married in the summer of 1979 as a young girl of 19 to a slightly older man of 21. We lived in an apartment in Memphis near Graceland. The apartments were within walking distance of my parents’ home and also his, but we still felt pretty independent, although close enough to reach out for a Mommy hug if we ever needed one.
The upstairs apartment was considered large, for the day. There was a huge great room (wasn’t called that then, it was still called a living room), with a dining room large enough to seat 6 comfortably at the end of the long room. The kitchen was tiny but adequate and there were three bedrooms and a bath and a half. There was a common complex washroom, which was not a great thing when you had to lug the laundry downstairs and over the hilly lawn. But during the heat of the summer, I could wash and dry clothes while lying by the pool just off the washroom, so it kind of balanced out. We couldn’t believe our first apartment, in a community mostly of old folks, was actually within the budget of two newlyweds living on a bakery clerk and grocery customer service guy’s salaries.
There was one thing we both hated about the apartment though…the stairs. It wasn’t bad enough to have to come up two flights at the front door. We were up THREE flights at the back since it was built into a hill and over a small storage area we shared with the other tenants of our particular building. If we wanted anything out of the storage or needed to take the trash out, it was down those three flights or we otherwise had to go way around the entire building, through a small alley, over a hill and to the back of the building.
Being young, we often chose the second path.
But there was one glorious thing about that back stairwell. It had a long, wide balcony at the top just off the kitchen door. From that balcony, I could see all the way to the Mississippi riverfront, many miles away. During the summer, I’d sit there while my husband worked the late shift, and watch the traffic amble by on Winchester Road. On July Fourth we had a birds’ eye view of the fireworks display over the west end of the city from battered up webbed lawn chairs. In those days, at those times we loved those stairs that shoved the balcony way up high over our end of the city.
I spent a lot of time out back because of the view. I’d read Woman’s Day and Redbook magazines while supper cooked, or watch the apartment dwellers going in and out of the apartments I could see from our back door. When my husband would get ready to leave for work, he’d know he could find me there most of the time. He’d say goodbye, head down the front to the car, and drive around the building. Then he’d stop at the bottom of the back stairs, lean over to the passenger side of the car and look through that window up to where I was hanging over the banister waiting. I’d wave, he’d wave, then take off down the street…and that was the beginning of the tradition called “waving goodbye”.
Through the years, we always waved goodbye. Once my daughter was born, she joined me on that balcony when Daddy left, and we both waved. We moved from that apartment to our first home. It had a big front window, and Samantha was big enough to go to the window on her own, which she did, and she waved until Daddy (or me if gone to run errands) would clear out of her sight. When people visited, or grannies and granddads left, we all went out onto the porch, and we waved goodbye. Now that my child is grown and her little ones live with me, when I go to work, the littles let me know they will wave to me out the big arched window. And I always look back, and I am never disappointed with an empty window.
I was reminded a few weeks ago about this tradition when I was leaving for errands. Only Lorelai was home with her Mom, the boys were at the sitter’s for the day. I got in the car, mission-minded, list in hand and started to pull back down the driveway. I caught something out of the corner of my eye. It was my sweet granddaughter, inside the garage doing her morning chores, but she had paused to wave at me as I was leaving. I stopped the garage door with the remote as it got halfway down and was going to raise it again so she could see me. But quickly she leaned down, looked at me under the big steel door and flashed her hand in the “I love you” sign language, which changed into a furiously pumping goodbye wave. As I let the door go on down to the ground, I mused about how the times change, but this tradition stands.
December is a time to celebrate the birth of a Savior, someone who came to earth so we could say goodbye to unhappiness and fear, and say hello to a bright new future with Him, if we so choose. It is also a time of reflection and usually a time to wave goodbye to the year we have just flown through. This year is no different. I have said goodbye to customers who have passed away, friends also who have gone on. I took a partial retirement and waved goodbye mid-summer to my retail junk shop, and said goodbye to a profitable booth space in a nearby city when that thrift shop closed. I said a forced goodbye to a friend I had had for almost 15 years…still don’t know why that friendship went away, but it did, so I chose to just wave and go on down the street. Leaving something behind is the hardest part of waving goodbye.
I look forward to 2017 and hope it is a year of many new hello moments. It feels like it will be a year of promise, potential, and peace just waiting for us to embrace it, and savor it. Wonder what is waiting just around the bend? I don’t know about you, but I am getting my hand ready to flash the “love” sign next December. Something tells me this is the year to add that to the goodbye tradition, no matter what the year does or doesn’t bring…even if it means we had to climb an extra flight of stairs to get through it.