Somehow in a sort of twilight state we have traversed great distances and slipped through time zones and now we are in Oxford. It is springtime here in the way that springtime happens in places with long winters: a sudden and exhilarating eruption of it, with trees in pink blossom and lacy new leaf, forsythia spilling over walls, and a conspiracy of daffodils -- daffodils everywhere we look, in gardens and grocery stores, in meadows and window boxes, along river banks and curbsides. The air, meanwhile, is noisy with birdsong and bells, and the young are being young, taking their leisurely turn at all of that, having their moment. They stretch out on the grass to enjoy the sun and picnics and one another. No one is hurrying.
Our daughter pedals up on her bicycle, her hair in a ponytail, a big yellow rose pinned to her lapel. She is wearing a red skirt and a gauzy blouse, and she looks beautiful and happy. In the early evening we walk together along a narrow cobblestone street lined by brick houses that look like the ones from Peter Pan. The sun has set but the sky still glows; it's a wide white sky and a northern kind of light. Everything seems enchanted.
Later, in the little flat that we have rented, our daughter is sitting on the bed, her legs outstretched, computer on her lap, somehow perfectly at home, as though nothing has changed. It's an image I will keep.
Later still -- long after she is gone -- we awake, disoriented, at some peculiar hour deep in the night or at the cusp of morning, still dark. We listen to what quiet means here, a car passing on the street below, a clock’s small ticking and a gurgling fridge, the hum and creak of an unfamiliar room. We wonder what time it is, and talk until we doze, and when daylight comes, there are bright trapezoids of sunlight on the walls, and the daffodils in a vase on the table have opened.