When our daughter left for college last year, I ran around buying and organizing everything I could possibly control. We moved her to her dorm, returned home, I finished cleaning out her room and I cried. I knew immediately that I would miss the day to day. Michael kept walking by her room and checking on me, but he didn’t say anything. He let me clean. I listened to John Mayer. Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey came on while I collected the hair elastics randomly dropped around her room and packed up her scrapbooks.
It seemed like a reasonable song at first, I wasn’t drinking and John’s voice was soothing. I was safely reminiscing until he got to the part where he sings, “It’s just a phase, it’s not forever. It’s just a phase, but I still may have a ways to go.” I crumbled a little at that point and for a moment I felt like one more thing left behind in her room. Michael heard the crumble, came in, held me and said Michael things.
I remembered all of the enlightened mantras about raising children and letting them go, but now that she was gone, nothing helped. When your child, the person you’ve raised from “tiny hiney” to grown young person, leaves your home, there is nothing to do, nothing to prepare you. I simply had to stand up and walk through the change.
I knew she wasn’t leaving for good, I knew she would be home to visit. I wanted her to go and have her own adventures, I knew she was just on loan to me, I knew all these things and yet I was certain things would never be the same.
There’s a moment that hits you in the chest when your child is no longer going to regularly be at the breakfast table. The feeling comes back every now and again, but it’s weaker and rarely knocks me off my feet anymore. I’ve passed the massive crash of the waves and I’m now into the warm calmer water.
Katlyn has started her second year of college. We’ve survived the first summer home and moving into the apartment. Things are different, but they are better. She came home this weekend. She was at the breakfast table with her smushed morning face. She napped on the couch and told story after story. She’s a talker, that Katlyn.
When I was in the thick of raising her, I don’t think I saw everything. I know I didn’t. But now that she’s not with me as often, she is so vivid. I see her, really see her, and everything is more. I hug her longer and I can tell with one look if she’s taking care of herself. There’s a weight and richness to the change that must be the gift that comes after the ache.
I still cried when she left and I try to avoid listening to Jason Aldean’s See You When I See You. I guess some things will never change.
My thoughts from the laundry room. Night Snugs.