Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Every Time You Say Good-bye

I still, after almost forty years, have a vivid, visceral memory of taking the YD to kindergarten for her very first day. I can see her, stamping along the sidewalk in front of me, each step signalling her annoyance that her mother was going to school with her, when the other kids were going by themselves. My explanation that I had to turn in her birth certificate and health card and sign her in did not cut it. She was ready for school. I wasn't ready for her to go, not really. Torn between tears and laughter I deposited her with her new classmates and slunk off to the office with the despised paperwork. On my way home alone, the tears won out.

I still, after almost twenty five years, have an clear, etched in memory of taking the YD to her University for the first time. Gritting my teeth as she drove, too fast, into the city, and navigated, with my scarcely voiced directions, into the parking lot of her residence. Watching her unload with unholy rapidity and, knowing that she really wanted me gone, insisting on taking one load up to her room so that I could at least see it. On my way home, alone, I drove out of the city torn between tears and laughter, remembering my own much earlier manouvres to get my parents to Just Leave but feeling as if I had left my heart behind me.

Since then I have said goodbye to both my daughters many times, as they left for graduate school, jobs in different cities, jobs overseas. I have been very lucky, really, as her sister, the ED, finally settled in a city only an hour away, has a permanent job there, is raising a family there, giving me good access to her and to Little Stuff and her brothers. The YD has her permanent residence there, also, but her job entails working out of the country for several years at a time.

This morning, after a frantic effort to pack up her life, she launched off again, car stuffed with immediate necessities, including the white water canoe tied to the roof, for her next out of the country stint. And once again I am torn between laughter and tears. Laughter because there are wonderful cast off clothes in my closet, the usual orphaned plants on my porch, strange pots of stuff from her frig and cupboards in my kitchen and bits of unfinished business scattered around for me to clear up. Tears, I am not sure why. She always comes back, after all.

I guess I will never, really, be comfortable with my empty nest, even one festooned with shed feathers and a bit or two of discarded shell. I'm a failure at letting go.


  1. At least this time she is going somewhere safe and completely beautiful! I remember places where bombs and bullets were a real concern.

    I can still imagine it never gets easier, though.

  2. Oh, sigh.

    My upbringing was a bit different -- my parents dumped me on the curb when I turned 18 (metaphorically speaking). I get impatient with my kids but I think I'll feel more like you, and be grateful if they live within driving distance.

  3. Mary, this was touching and beautiful.

  4. My 4 year old started preschool a few weeks ago, and I thought I'd be thrilled with that couple of hours to myself. Instead, I sit here thinking about him.