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A memory for Nikki

A memory for Nikki who is packing up and moving to her first year of college. You must have been about 6 and at 6 you had round rosy cheeks. It was dinner time; you were hungry. You wanted a cookie. I offered you an apple instead. You shook your head. I told you to put on your pajamas. "By the time you're done dinner should be ready," I said.

Three minutes later -- still whining -- you showed up at my side in washed-out, footed pajamas. "After dinner you can have a cookie." Suddenly, reaching your boiling point, you stamped your foot and screamed, "I'm running away from home." "Be my guest," I said. "I'm going to my room and pack." "Just make sure you don't forget anything." When you reappeared, your red snow boots were on top of your pale yellow pajamas, your red knitted jacket zipped all the way up. On your back your knapsack was filled with shirts and overalls. In your right hand you carried your Snoopy suitcase jam-packed with Crayolas and Magic Markers and coloring books. Perched on your left arm was your big green frog, which, in those days, was about the size of you. I put an apple in your knapsack, asked if you knew where you were going, to which you answered no. I held the front door open and wished you a good journey. I watched you walk the path from the front door. You turned to face me with tears rolling down your face and, in a quavery voice, you wished me a good rest of my life. I thanked you, wished you the same, closed the door and went back to the kitchen to finish cooking. When I could stand the suspense no longer, I threw on my coat and went outside. There you were, sitting on a rock by the side of the driveway, looking out at the street and carrying on a lively conversation with the big green frog. "Dinner's ready," I shouted and moments later you were inside shedding your belongings. Then you came to the table, your blue eyes shining from the tears, your rosy cheeks still glowing from the cold night air. "I'm glad you're back," I said. "I missed you." "Me too," you said.

NY Times, Sept. 30, 1992

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