In two days I’m getting on a plane and flying from San Francisco to Washington D.C., the city where I grew up and where I have regularly returned from the time I was two until my mother’s death in July, 2001. Driving to the airport with my husband and little girls a few days after she died, I remember feeling that not only had I lost my mother, I’d lost my childhood home — and my city as well.
Never in my wildest imaginings would I have guessed that nine years would pass before I returned. Or that I’d be traveling to give a reading from my book about my mother’s death — Imperfect Endings — at her favorite bookstore: Politics & Prose. At the time I left, I was desperate to put the long difficult months leading up to her suicide behind me: to reclaim a normal life with family and friends: a life I could just barely remember. So while I mourned all that I was leaving that day, I was also anxious to go, to move on. And perhaps that explains why it’s taken me so long to return.
But now that I am returning, it seems this trip is an almost perfect confluence of events, starting with Politics & Prose. Not only is P&P one of those bookstores that manages to be both inviting and illustrious at the same time, it’s a place where I have wonderful, happy memories of my mother. When taking walks, going to museums, or shopping, was no longer possible for her, she was always ready to head up to P&P, buy some books and sit in the cafe, talking and thumbing through our finds over tea and muffins. So while I do have some pre-reading jitters, I can’t help but feel that my mother’s spirit will be sitting somewhere nearby, beaming her support — proud of me for having written the book, and for bringing it “home” to this place we both love.
And if she is there, she’ll be among good friends, many of whom will be at the reading. It is primarily for them that I will read. Not only did these people — many of them in their seventies and eighties — love and appreciate my mother when she was alive, they supported her choice to depart her life on her own terms, before nature took its full, brutal course. I have much to thank them for.
My big sister, Sarah (“Hannah” in the book) will be there as well and we are already planning to go to some of our old haunts in the city: the Bishop’s Garden at the National Cathedral, Macomb playground, Beauvoir school, The National Zoo, Ireland’s Four Provinces pub. And to my great joy, it will be the height of Washington’s spectacular spring, a time when every tree and bush sprouts and blooms and there is an almost-indecent lushness everywhere you look.
As my good friend, Peter Samis, reminded me in a text message sent from his travels yesterday: “Drink it in deeply.” And I plan to.
Causes Zoe FitzGerald Carter Supports
National Parkinson Foundation
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
Michael J. Fox Parkinson's Foundation