Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

I drifted through the farewell party, feeling unmoored.  Our house, no longer our home, stood empty a couple of blocks away.  Our belongings were en route to a new city, our departure imminent. Yet here Zora and I stood in celebratory pause, having our last hurrah, a Happy Trails party to launch us toward our new home.

I knew I would be back in Richmond again soon.  I had a house to sell and projects to lead, but I didn’t know if I would be back again with Zora, and I needed to reassure myself that I had done enough to impress the place upon her heart. It was, after all, her first home, where she was born and I became her mother.

As a parent, it’s my job to make the good stuff stick.  To consciously fortify my daughter with the kind of experiences and people that will lift her up for a lifetime.  To communicate every day that she is loved, valued and supported. The message is vital. Daily delivery is the very least I must do if she’s to thrive in a world where hate and violence bloom, also.

That maternal calling felt especially strong as our 1,500-mile journey to Texas neared. I had lived in six states in the last ten years, but this was to be Zora’s first big move.  I wanted her to be forever rooted in Richmond, even as she left to flourish elsewhere.

I thought giving her a send off to remember could help.  So I ordered a few of her favorite things–cupcakes from Pearl’s, mac and cheese from Mama J’s, a performance from Culture Queen–and invited a slew of her favorite people to party with us.


I wanted the crafts and the balloons, the love and the laughter.  A spectacle grand and fun enough to leave an impression and colorful photos to conjure the day as memories receded.  I wanted to engage every sense with standout props, flavorful and fragrant food, catchy songs, and, most importantly, warm embraces.

I watched as guests aged one to 70, from every phase of Zora’s young life, ate, danced and played. Friends from my childbirth classes, our doula, and her nanny showed up. Playdate pals and Montessori schoolmates showed out.  To see them all assembled in one place was a spectacular gift, confirmation of the close, caring village that had nurtured her.

I wondered how moved Zora was by the affair and how long the effect would last. I took comfort in her near-constant smiles that day.

Now, all these weeks later, happy and settled in our new house, I still feel the love and think she does too.  “That was the best party ever,” she says.  Until the next one, I think, with visions of future celebrations flashing ahead, the birthdays and dance parties that will make this new place home.


Question: How do you preserve memories of places and people you’ve loved?

Photos by: A Lovely Photo (http://www.whatalovelyphoto.com/) and Elle Photo Booth (http://ellephotobooth.com/)