Today I waved good-bye again. This time, it was my third child riding off in a car with her father.
She will go to the school I attended. I remember knowing when I left for that school the first time, that it was the last time home would ever be fully home.
I’ve done this twice before, and each time it gets harder. Each time, I think I’ve gotten a handle on saying, “Go grow up.” And each time, I know, that as ready as my kids think they are, neither I nor the kids feel quite ready for it to really happen.
When she texted me two minutes after leaving, “Miss home already,” I laughed.
She’d spent the last 15 minutes of living at home napping on the couch and complaining about her 14-year-old sister’s practicing the piano. The night before leaving, I’d bought her mangoes for the trip. I’d told her to remember to pray, just a little: “Thank you God” each day at the beginning of the day, and again at the end. She said she’d consider it. Sometimes I get too Catholic-mom for her, but I also find she’s oddly grateful.
She took her teddy bear, a Harry Potter wand, a geode we’d bought her for Christmas and all the Keurig cups minus the decaf. Crammed in the car with pillows and water, a TV and bedding, she looked smaller than real life, and was somehow bigger than I remembered. Time felt like it hadn’t just been stolen away; whole years had been swallowed. Eighteen of them had passed and I still felt like I just met her, like the day I first held her, and carolers came by the maternity ward singing “Silent Night.”
As a mom, though I had known her since she was in my womb, I would never know her enough, and waving good-bye to the car, I felt the reality. Now, I would know her less. I’d only get the Twitter feed and occasional phone call.
I was set to have a mother pity party over missing her when reality intervened.
An hour after leaving, she phoned and asked for a package of things she’d discovered she’d forgotten, and to say she’d left health forms on the table.
They turned back from the start of their nine-hour drive and I got to give one last hug and kiss and a bag of quarters for laundry. It felt good to be needed one more time.
She’s spent the whole summer chomping at the bit to leave, and now wished that somehow, home would come with her, or to her, first thing.
“Send me oatmeal raisin cookies,” she texted. It was the closest she’d come to saying, “I’m scared of how things will change.”
I knew I’d do all she asked, and it would be my way of answering, “Don’t worry.” And at the same time, “Me too.”