The piles in the hallway outside their bedrooms grow as they move belongings there that they will be taking with them this weekend. I nod and acknowledge and approve the consolidation, the choices of sheets, towels, comforters. I make mental checklists to make sure everyone is thinking of everything they may need. Advil, Excedrin Migraine, Flonase. Razors, deodorant, body wash. Tweezers, nail clippers, good running shoes. Registered to vote? Check. Absentee ballots? Check. They are ready.
I am not.
When my son first headed to college two years ago I was lost. I mourned the changed dynamic of our family. We had made it through some challenging years and I really liked the way we were together. I hated the hole that he left, the silence that I never expected. We are lucky that he is close by, and comes home frequently, often bringing friends.
This weekend, my daughter follows the same path. She is farther away, New York City, and I suspect our lovely little town will never be big enough for her again (if it ever was.) She is anxious to be there, to be part of the world that she recognized as her own as soon as she turned onto West 4th Street for our NYU tour almost a year ago.
I am not struggling with who I am or what my identity is now that I will no longer be making lunches and doing laundry for them every day. What I am grappling with is the thought of the even greater silence that will soon descend. I don’t know what to do with all of my love for them. It keeps welling over through my eyes! My husband keeps jokingly reminding me that he will still be here; I am not going to be alone. I know that, and I am grateful. And yet…
I remember when my son was leaving so many people used the phrase “the new normal.” I was ready to scream if I heard it one more time. They were right. It’s true. I see our lives as completely normal, even if very different from the past. It’s been an amazing summer. Both children worked hard and made enough money to pay for books as well as give them enough spending money for a good long while (even for NYC!) We shared meals, laughs, Stranger Things. We entertained friends and family, and loved our big slobby dog.
And I know that we will continue to do all of these things. I will count the days until Thanksgiving. Christmas. Spring break. Here’s to the new normal.
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