Today is finally here. It doesn’t matter how much I have willed the clock to stop ticking, the calendar to stop advancing or life to freeze for just one more minute. It doesn’t matter that I am not ready. Today is the day that I will leave my baby at college. I will somehow make myself get in the car and head north, leaving her to fend for herself 1000 miles away from me. The longest we have ever been separated is for two weeks one summer. I am dreading the next ten weeks. I have been “mom” since I was 22 years old. At 49, I now need to figure out who I am. I need to create an identity other than mom, and frankly, it scares the hell out of me.
Today, I will sit in the Civic Center and smile, laugh in all the right places, and take lots of pictures. I will hug her and send her on her way to start her great adventure. I will do all of this while trying desperately not to cry, not to wail and scream and hang on so tightly that she cannot get free. I need to put on a brave front so that she can go start her own life, find out who she is, without being burdened by my grief. So far, it is not going so well, but that is okay. For she is not here. I have an hour to get myself back together, and somehow I will do just that. Thank goodness I don’t wear makeup!
There are so many firsts ahead for both of us. Her first class on Monday. Her first excursion with her new roommates. Her first night in her dorm with all her roommates (there are four in her mini suite). I am so excited for her. And so sad and scared for myself. In 49 years, I have never been completely alone. As a card-carrying introvert, I am comfortable by myself, but there has always been the knowledge that I am not completely alone in my aloneness. That there has always been someone else with me, that she will be home from work/school/orchestra/whatever at some point in the near future. It has just been she and I for the past seven years, and we have formed a tight bond. We hang out more with each other than with anyone else. Both of us will have some adjusting to do.
So today, my old life as “Mom” and little else, will end at 7 pm when I leave her at college and start the long drive home. I will have a lot of time to think about what will come next for me. I need to find some interests, join some clubs, find some activities and create a social life. Apparently starting a new phase in one’s life has similar requirements.
I will give myself some time to grieve, to look in the rearview mirror and miss those days that are gone. But then I will turn my eyes forward and look to the future. Ten weeks isn’t terribly long. I can’t wait to see how college changes her, to have adult conversations with her, to sip tea and chat about her life, classes, and friends. Until then, I will work on my own changes, so that I have something to share with her.