We did fine last fall, slowly making the transition from parents to empty-nesters. I didn't feel the need to avoid her empty room; in fact, just the opposite was true. Walking into the room across the hall from ours gave me a dose of her. I missed her, of course, but once I knew she was happy, I settled into a new routine, counting down the days until Parents Weekend. I was fine as long as I had that Leah light in the middle of the tunnel that led to October. Then there was Thanksgiving and Christmas, both offering time to fall back into familiar patterns, becoming a family of three again, if only temporarily. As long as we broke first semester into chunks, it was manageable.
Lately, though, I've been missing her, and it's a strange feeling -- one I didn't anticipate. She's been back at school for almost a month. She's busy and happy, thriving and independent -- all the things we want for her. She was sick last week, but she managed it, doing all the right things and having wonderful support from her roommates.
I expected these feelings to hit me sooner -- after we dropped her off at the train station last month, for example. But dropping her off at the train station was an entirely different experience from moving her into her room, and when I wasn't overwhelmed by feelings of missing her in those first few days, I thought I'd made it. I'd adjusted.
Boy, was I good.
But the countdown is much longer this time -- more than twice as long, actually. A new semester has started, and, since she has a service project planned for spring break, we won't see her again until May. Even then, we'll see her for about a week before she leaves for one trip, then another until finally, in June, she'll be home again, balancing sleep, work, friends and family -- most likely in that order.
Yet, I can't help but miss her. Last fall, I kept my feet planted firmly on one pin on the time map, but now, I can't ignore the big picture around that pin -- the one I refused to think about in the fall.
She'll never be back home again in quite the same way.
And so I miss her.