Monday, January 7, 2019

Letting Go

Stux via Pixabay
Today, my daughter begins a new adventure — a semester abroad. Even before I developed an aversion to flying, I never had a desire to embark on this type of an excursion. When I was in college, two of my roommates spent a semester in England and, while I enjoyed hearing about their travels, I was uninterested in taking a trip of my own.

My daughter is different. She still harbors a bit of a grudge because I vetoed a trip to China when she was 11, and has been making plans ever since. I am both impressed and nervous, and am working hard to express only enthusiasm for a trip that begins with a plane ride over a vast expanse of water.

As I type this, we are en route to the airport. Except for the knot in the pit of my stomach, it feels like any other family excursion. My husband is driving, I’m in the passenger’s seat, a bag of travel goodies (magazines, Sudokus, my Kindle) at my feet and my daughter is in the back seat, attached to her phone via earbuds. A part of me wants to soak up every last drop of time, engaging in conversation or maybe even the car games that got us through trips so many years ago, but my attempts are consistently rebuffed. I suspect she finds the familiarity as reassuring as I do, a buffer against any nerves that threaten to dull the luster of this great adventure.

Even now, the thought of the trip home, as she flies in one direction and we drive in another without her, brings big, drippy tears to my eyes, so I can’t think about it. Not yet. Not while she is still in the back seat and my job is to be reassuring and enthusiastic. It reminds me a little of dropping her off at day care when she was little, careful to be all smiles and promises of play, before climbing back in the car and bursting into tears as I drove off without her.

I will be fine once I know she is safely at her destination. These past two-and-a-half years of sending her off to college have given me plenty of practice at saying goodbye then resuming my new normal, empty nest mom life. The truth is, it isn’t all bad; in fact, it has many things to recommend it. It’s just that I now understand what my mom said for so many years — that she was fine when we weren’t there, until we came back. Then, when we left after a visit, she missed us more than ever.

As usual, Mom was right. This departure is one of the more challenging ones we have to face, but that will only make the reunion all that sweeter.

Or perhaps I might just have to make an excursion of my own.

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