“Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow, That I shall say good night till it be morrow.” Act 2, Scene 2, Romeo and Juliet
Despite the reverence I hold for the Bard of Avon, please allow me to disagree with William Shakespeare. There is nothing “sweet” about parting from someone you love. I recently had to say goodbye to my daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren when they moved from Arizona to Virginia. Their home in Old Dominion is not in the easy-to-get-to suburbs of Washington, D.C. nor a quick dash down I-81, but a tiny town located in the very tip of southwest Virginia, five hours east of Nashville, the closest major airport.
The hardest parting was with my nine-year-old granddaughter. Kaelyn has been an almost daily presence in my life since her birth. Knowing she would be moving so far away, Kaelyn stayed with me for the last six weeks of summer break. We spent a good deal of time together at our home in Flagstaff where she helped me rake pine needles and gather volcanic rocks for our own rock garden. We went swimming, visited a deer park, fed bread to the ducks, and checked out every park in Flagstaff. We even adapted our own song from a high-school cheerleading song:
Everywhere we go
People want to know
Who we are
So we tell them
I am Kaelyn. I am Grandma.
Kaelyn, her brother, and her parents have already settled into their new lives. The town where they live is so small that if you show up for cheerleading practice, you are automatically on the team, so Kaelyn is now a cheerleader. Don’t you love it! The first day of school, she was so busy talking to her new friends that she didn’t get off at her bus stop (which is actually her driveway as the houses are so far apart), and the driver had to turn around. My grandson has a huge backyard to explore, and my daughter will see more of her over-the-road trucker husband. So it’s a good move for everyone. Well, almost everyone.
Speaking of tearful goodbyes, one of the more interesting parts of my own family history was the Mulkerin family from County Galway, Ireland. Unlike every other European immigrant group, young Irish girls were the first to emigrate to America, finding jobs in major cities and on farms as domestics. The first Mulkerin, Mary, left Ireland in 1860. Two years later, using money sent by her sister to pay for her passage, Ann emigrated, and then brother John. But it was not until 1883 when the last two Mulkerin sisters, Nora, and my great, great grandmother, Bridgit Mulkerin, left Ireland for Minooka, Pennsylvania, a small coal-mining town just south of Scranton. By that time, all the sisters were grandmothers, Mary was living on a farm in Hennepin County, Minnesota, and John was dead, killed in a roof fall in a coal-mining accident. But Ann was still in Minooka, and John’s children were there as well. What must it have been like to see a sister that you hadn’t set eyes on in two decades! I can’t imagine. Unfortunately, nothing is recorded because they were illiterate, and their stories have disappeared into the mists of time.
All this “sweet parting” got me to thinking about Cassandra and Jane Austen. Jane’s biographers draw a very clear picture of two sisters who were extremely close. In fact, they were best friends and confidantes. When they were separated, they corresponded nearly every day, and it is these letters that have enabled us to flesh out the elusive personal side of Jane Austen. According to JaneAusten.co.uk: “Most of what we know of Jane Austen today, we owe to her sister Cassandra. It was she who filled in gaps in her sister’s life for generations after, leaving an oral record to supplement the written. It was she who gave us the only two authenticated likenesses of her sister. It was she who, while she did destroy many of the letters, preserved the majority of her sister’s extensive writings and most importantly, it was she to whom the letters were written, without which we might never have known the human side of one of the world’s favorite authors.”
What a difference between the time Cassandra and Jane were traveling about the South of England in cumbersome coaches in the early decades of the 19th century and 2013! Today, I can make an airline reservation and be in my daughter’s home the next day! Although we are 2,000 miles apart, we can use Facetime and Skype to stay in contact with each other. I know exactly what Kaelyn wore on her first day of school because a photo appeared on my I-phone, and I have watched a video of two-year-old Skyler running around the backyard with his dog.
I know in time I will get used to the quiet and the lack of toys scattered about the family room, and because Skyler is not about, I have taken my coffee table out of storage because he is not there to jump off it. Even so, to be truthful, there was nothing “sweet” in the sorrow I felt when that moving truck pulled away and headed east to Virginia.