Saying goodbye to my daughter, Amy, brought up memories of my going off to college. I also felt infused with a sense of loss in the pit of my stomach. I ached for my girl.
I had to remind myself it was a different experience when I left for college, because I knew I would probably not return home for much more than the occasional visit for holidays and assorted life passages.
I took solace in the thought that this would be different for my girl. Amy wanted to come home–-not just for her immediate family, but for her many friends. That was all good. And there was still Max at home. Two more years to go before his send off, two more years before my nest would be empty. I still had my motherhood role firmly intact.
Those two years were filled with transferring to a private school that would be suitable for his learning style, and then of course there was the preparation for college, college visits, college applications and prayers to the college gods.
One month ago today, my husband Martin and I took our son to college, where he began his freshman year learning about music and business management.
I dutifully set up Max’s half of his dorm room and made his bed cozy. My husband set up his computer and printer and then off we went to dinner. In the morning there was a farewell breakfast, after which the parents received their marching orders. “Say your goodbyes now. The children are beginning their adventure program.”
Panic set in. I promised myself I would not cry. I couldn’t control my breathing. All these years of yoga and meditation were for naught. I was a ball of mush.
Sunglasses did not disguise the tears streaming down my face. I hugged my 6’5” baby boy and said farewell.
I could not bare to leave the campus without some tangible that would connect me with Max. I bought orange plaid flannel pajamas with the official college logo. I thought pjs would be comfortable and practical.
Six hours I cried – at times uncontrollably – in the car as my husband drove back to Boston. My sobs gave little space for Martin’s own feelings to emerge around our new loss. No more babies. Our little nest was empty–with the exception of Kooper, our Portuguese Water dog.
When we finally arrived back home, all was eerily quiet. Kooper knew something was different and didn’t go through his usual barking ritual as we approached the door.
I cried myself to sleep that night. In the middle of the night I awoke and crept into Max’s room smelling him in his blankets and mattress. It lolled me to a deep sleep.
Several months later I still feel pangs of sadness when I walk into my children’s very quiet, very neat empty rooms.
Since then I have rediscovered writing as an important mode of self-expression, which has led to many wonderful opportunities. When the kids come home my heart sings.
Comment back to me: What is your experience with your (going to be) empty nest?