This Tall Tale is dedicated to my daughter, Danni; who has finally stretched her wings to leave our nest. May you find joy in your newfound independence, freedom from all of life’s restrictions, and comfort in knowing that home is wherever your heart dwells. Love, Mom
Cynthia’s eyes blurred as she tried to focus on the paper before her. Pen in hand, her nerves tingled with excitement. She had waited for this moment most of her life. It was a natural transition, but she had no idea how intense her feelings would be on this day. She had spent many nights dreaming about living on her own, and it was something she wanted to do since high school. Now, Cynthia was about to hand over her hard-earned cash to someone she barely knew just so she could have a place she could call her own.
Perusing the permitted and restricted sections of the lease, Cynthia found the signature line. She paused a moment as she cherished every thought and feeling that this single line gave her. Then, with a quick flare and a smooth grace, Cynthia signed her full name to the contract, binding her to forfeit a good portion of her income for a livable space for the following year.
With a deep sigh, Cynthia dropped the pen, slid the paper across the desk to the man on the other side, and sat back in her chair. He was a pleasant-looking older man with sandy-colored hair and seemed trustworthy enough. He managed the fifty-unit apartment complex that Cynthia would now be renting from and was quite helpful during the application process.
“Well, Cindy,” the man smiled with a toothy grin. “It looks like we have a deal. You can write the check out to JJM Management, LLC.”
Cynthia reached for her checkbook from her bag. Then, with another flourish of her pen and a racing heart, she signed over her savings. Then, she tore the check from its binding and handed it over to the short man leaning forward in his chair, “Thanks for all of your help, Jim!”
Jim placed the check in the top drawer of his desk. He retrieved a set of keys from another drawer and moved from his chair to a wooden cabinet on the wall. With a quick turn, Jim unlocked the cupboard full of silver keys. Guiding his finger along the labels above the keys, he searched for the correct ones before settling on a ring of keys to Cynthia’s new apartment.
“Apartment number 7137 is now yours,” he said as he removed two keys from the ring. “It’s the second building on your right when you enter the complex through the South entrance. Your apartment is on the second floor. Remember to keep your keys safe and secure. There will be an extra charge if we come out to unlock your door or a more substantial charge if we change your locks because you lost your keys.”
Cynthia nodded in agreement as Jim handed her the jingling set. Then, he stepped out of the small office to make a copy of the lease for her files. She couldn’t believe that this was really happening. Cynthia was finally moving into her very own apartment.
There will be no parents around to nag her about doing her chores and no 3-year-old sister running and screaming throughout the house. There will be no curfew, and she can eat and drink anything she wants whenever she wants. Showers would now be on her schedule, and fighting over laundry time would now be a thing of the past. She was most thrilled about watching her own television shows instead of a bunch of cartoon fishes singing on constant replay.
“Here is a copy of your lease,” Cynthia took the warm paper from Jim’s outstretched hands. “If you would like, I can walk you over there now to ensure your keys work.”
“I think I can manage it on my own,” Cynthia said politely as she exited Jim’s office.
She stepped into the crisp morning air and reveled in how this newfound independence gave her more confidence than ever before. The birds chirped in nearby trees, and the sun radiated warmth on her skin. Cynthia closed her eyes, smiled, and gave herself a tight squeeze. Then, she let her arms fly above her head and did a happy dance on the sidewalk in front of the office. She didn’t care who saw her. She was overcome by her own joy that it spilled forward, giving her legs an extra energy boost.
Apartment number 7137 stood out in big gold lettering on red brick next to the green door. It had a deadbolt lock in addition to the one on the doorknob. Cynthia made a mental note to make copies of both keys. She wanted to give them to her parents in case she did the unfortunate thing and locked herself out of her own apartment. The door swung open to a short hallway extending from one bedroom to the great expanse of the living space. Cynthia hugged herself again and said, “I am home!”
The newness of this space seemed surreal, and it was almost too big. Cynthia ran from room to room, opening doors, turning on faucets, and laughing out loud. This was her new home, and it was all her own. Cynthia felt that she was about to explode and couldn’t contain her excitement any longer. She picked up her phone and dialed her friends and family, encouraging them to start moving her things over today!
While she waited for her parents to drive the fully loaded truck over, Cynthia did a quick run-through of the inspection to finalize her paperwork. Then, she went down to her car, retrieved the few boxes she had packed in her trunk, and carried them into her apartment. In no time, her friends and parents began to arrive. They all got to work right away. The men lifted the heavy stuff as she directed them where to go, and the women brought in boxes, unpacked them, and placed items in their approximate locations.
Cynthia would later reorganize the chaos, but for now, there was no room for complaints when she received tremendous help from her loved ones.
After a couple of hours, with the truck fully unloaded, the men gathered around Cynthia’s electronics so she could relax to a good television show later that evening. A few women stopped what they were doing to get dinner and drinks. When the food arrived, everyone celebrated Cynthia’s newfound independence by sitting around her cluttered space. Some sat on the floor, others on boxes or even in a chair or two. They drank soda from a solo cup and ate pizza from a paper plate.
Cynthia’s mother found the trash bags and began to clean up after the sweaty crew. Then, with full stomachs and droopy eyelids, the crowd exited Cynthia’s apartment; each one, in their turn, hugged her and whispered their congratulatory remarks and well wishes in her ear. Her parents stayed behind to ensure that she had everything she needed. Her mother wept, and her father squeezed her tight, patting her back for good measure. This sent a wave of mixed emotions inside her. Her chin quivered, and a tear threatened to leave the confines of her lids. Cynthia would miss living with her parents. She would miss her father’s jokes, her mother’s talks, and her sister’s morning giggles.
Closing the door behind her parents, Cynthia stepped back into her living space. It surprised her how much smaller her apartment now appeared. Boxes were still piled in corners and on tables, chairs, and countertops. Some were empty with evidence of paper waste spilling out, while others still needed their tape torn from the top and waited to be unpacked. The room no longer echoed her parents’ wisdom or her friends’ laughter. The silence was deafening, but she could hear the wind hug her windows as a car drove down the street.
The silence that now surrounded her not only saddened her but also gave her comfort. It was hers and hers alone to do with as she willed. She could turn on the television or the radio whenever she wanted at any volume she wanted. She could hum a tune or sing to herself while dancing in her living room. She would no longer be jolted awake by an overenthusiastic little girl screaming at the top of her lungs, “CAT PUKE!” Nor would she have to deal with her parents gripping about cleaning up after herself.
Cynthia grabbed her cup from the counter and crossed her legs as she sat on the floor. Her orange and white tabby cat sauntered from the bedroom and sniffed the air. He eventually made his way to Cynthia’s lap and rested his head on her knee. She stroked his chin, inciting a purr that reverberated in her soul. It felt good to be an adult, taking on this big leap from childhood into responsible adulting. She was no longer fully reliant on others to meet her needs, and it was exhilarating to reverse the roles for a change by taking the lead and giving her parents direction.
At last, she was free. Free from overshadowing, free from nagging, free from curfews, and free to do whatever she wanted. Cynthia took a deep breath, nuzzled her cat, and said, “So, this is what freedom feels like.”