A 9×9 box came in mail the other day. Wingate. What could they possibly be sending me?
When I had visited my daughter on the parent’s weekend in June, on my way out of town I had stopped by the main office to pick up her stuff. The stuff that I had put together for her the night before the transport team would pick her up. She didn’t need anything, they said, a backpack with things for the 8-hour car ride, some leggings, a sweatshirt, a book, a letter. When the young woman brought out the big blue plastic tub of stuff there was so much more than I had sent along. In the time she’d had alone in her room with the female transport chaperone my daughter had packed things, things a 17 year-old girl would need for a weekend getaway. A couple of pairs of thongs, push-up bras, a cute little jumper with the tags still on that I had bought for her the weekend before in a last ditch attempt to connect, to pull her back from the brink of destruction, to show her I loved her more than anything. Mascara, an eyelash curler, that expensive face serum I had been looking for the last 4 weeks wondering what the hell I could have done with it. As she muttered to herself through sobs how scared she was, that she was afraid she would never come home, that I would leave her in Utah forever, she knew that if she was going to be chucked out into the desert at least she would have a couple of thongs and some mascara. Her phone, glass cracked, pot leaf sticker on the back and an In-N-Out T-shirt she had coerced the transport team lead into buying her, that she never got to wear, were at the bottom of the tub.
In the box was an oversized large red nylon sack you take camping with you and put the extra stuff in that you need for the trip. I shook the contents out onto my bed. Her clothes were in there. The clothes she had worn for 10 weeks in the Utah desert. Cotton panties, she called granny panties, some shorts and a couple of polyester shirts, socks, sensible athletic bras. I picked up one of the shirts, put it up to my face, inhaled. It held the smoke from the last campfires she had sat around with the 10 girls who had become her sisters and the staff that had become her mentors. The smoke from hard earned fires that she had learned to start with a primitive fire starter kit. The smoke that became the source of light, sustenance, and life for her and her new family. I buried my face in the shirt, the grief that gurgles below my epidermis seeped out of my eyes. I held the shirt and cried.