So, it’s down to this. Empty suitcase, empty Kleenex, empty nest. But how can empty be the right word, when I’m so filled with emotion? My husband Ed and I are back home now after delivering our “baby” to college–more than 1700 miles away. Chicago may feel distant, but her brother is even farther, having left just this week to study abroad in Nottingham, England. I haven’t checked the exact miles, but it’s eight hours ahead of us, so he’ll often be sleeping while we’re awake and vice versa.
Empty seats at the table
So here, we are: braced for a Thanksgiving missing both of them. Yes, I know I’m not the first and many others are going through it, it’s just that now I can relate. And now I look back from a perspective of wistful knowing, like gazing at mothers with babes in strollers, or passing a Little League game and longing to be there cheering them on.
All those years, where did they go?
But look at that smile!
Passing through the Northwestern University arch with throngs of new freshmen, our daughter looked so happy–and so grown up. Was this the same little girl who called me “the best mom in the whole world even including the aliens,” the same voice that asked, “What’s for dinner, mom?” so many times? One and the same, though it’s hard to accept.
A mother’s woes
I have to admit I worry about her. Probably more than usual–no, a lot more than usual. Since the day she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I’ve worried. How can I not, knowing her blood sugar can plummet to life-threatening lows? She’s a champ, though, at taking care of herself, calculating carbohydrates and administering shots of insulin, and that helps.
Still… when Ed and I said our last goodbyes on the campus lawn in the midst of the crowd, I wanted to bawl my head off. Instead, I held it together, no more than a few loose tears. It isn’t about me, and I know that. More than anything, though, I’m happy for her. Overjoyed, to tell you the truth. She has so many adventures ahead, and so many opportunities: new studies, new friends, falling in love maybe, and, eventually–dare I think?–a child or two of her own. It’s hard not to go there with milestones like this.
Adventures in England
I feel the same for our son. He’s having a blast, that’s plain to see, only a few days in central England and already seeing the sites and making friends. Is this the same kid who, as a towheaded boy, called me his “hero”? The same who in the seventh grade hit a gorgeous grand slam only to miss, through all the excitement, home plate? Oh, the angst and the laughter, the memories and the fun. He’s a young man now, seizing the day. And he’s seizing it so hard it overwhelms me with pride.
That’s Nottingham Castle!
No, empty is not the right word. Full is more like it: full of emotion, full of hope, and full of anticipation for my children’s futures. Sure, it’s quiet around here and I’ll need to keep busy, but that’s not a problem. I’ve got a second novel to finish!
Plus, Ed is here to keep me company. We’ll have time now to get reacquainted as middle-aged folk. I see more date nights in our future, perhaps the proverbial class on ballroom dancing, who knows?
Time keeps on slipping…
And yet, the past few mornings when the high school bus stopped at our corner, I couldn’t help looking out. I crept to the window and stood there in my robe like some Gladys Kravitz. I had to watch all the new kids getting on board. Friday morning there were nine. All of them sons and daughters, climbing those steps, whether they know it or not, into the future, nearing the day when they too will leave home.
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