By: Mary Fran Bontempo

photo(5)Dave was incredulous.

“What the heck happened in this kitchen? I just cleaned it all up fifteen minutes ago; it looks like a bomb went off in here!”

I looked at my husband, not saying a word.

“Oh,” he said, “I forgot.”

After 32 years of marriage, we’ve achieved an almost telepathic ability to communicate without words. Ofttimes, a mere glance will clue Dave in as to what’s going down at Casa Bontempo, which is a good thing, as listening to me has never been his strong suit. Come to think of it, it’s not the strong suit of anyone in this house. Anyway, this time, what had happened in the kitchen became clear in an instant with a single look: Laura was home for a visit.

Laura, our middle child and first daughter, moved to Florida back in April, amid much wailing and gnashing of teeth–her teeth–even though the whole extravaganza was her idea in the first place. She moved away for school and because she’s always wanted to live in Florida, at least until the night before she was to move, when she sat on the floor of her room catatonically rocking back and forth while her younger sister, Megan, and I stuffed her clothes into a suitcase.

It’s been an interesting few months, as we’ve never been separated from any of our kids by more than a two hour car ride, and more often than not, by more than a three yard walk down the upstairs hallway.

She’s adjusting; we’re adjusting. With the help of Face Time and Skype, the distance doesn’t loom quite so large and Laura and I will frequently “have breakfast together” with the help of technology. But it’s not the same as giving your child a hug and sitting down at a table face-to-face. We miss our girl.

At least, we miss most of her.

As every parent knows, each child comes pre-packaged with his or her own idiosyncrasies. They’re the things that make the child who he or she is, for better or worse. And while Laura has many wonderful idiosyncrasies–she jumps in with both feet on any cause that touches her heart (and they are myriad), she can make friends with anyone-young, old, human or non, and she looks remarkably like Charlize Theron (no, really, she does, check this pic)–she has one quirk that definitely falls into the “worse” category: Everywhere she goes, she leaves a trail.

This trail usually consists of whatever she’s holding in her hands at any given moment and grows exponentially as she careens through her day. Early morning? Towels, clothes, shoes, makeup, breakfast dishes, lunch fixings, work paraphernalia, etc.–some of which would make its way out the door with her and some of which would remain.

Evening would bring a reversal of the same as she’d shed her daily accoutrements upon walking in the door. And if she were making a meal in the kitchen? Well, there are no words.

To be clear, the girl is not a slob. She is insistent on clean, and will regularly assault anything sitting still with a spray cleaner and cleanser, but clutter? Well, that’s another story. For all of her twenty-six years with us, one need only survey the surrounding landscape to know if she’d passed through.

So yeah, the kitchen looked like a bomb went off in it, as did the hallway, the bathroom and Laura’s bedroom, but the house also contained a delightful girl who I love with my whole heart, who makes me laugh and who looks remarkably like Charlize Theron. (Did I say that already?)

There’s a trail. But in this case, it’s a happy one. A trail I’m thrilled to be able to follow, even if it’s only for a visit.