“She (We gave her most of our lives) / Is leaving (Sacrificed most of our lives) / Home” —The Beatles
“She’s gone / I’d better learn how to face it / She’s gone / I’d pay the devil to replace her” —Hall & Oates
“Gone like a freight train” —Montgomery Gentry
The girl has left the building.
She’s college-bound, off to her 10th-floor dorm room in the most congested section of her rolling and rural D1 campus. There might be more occupants on her floor than were in her graduating class.
She is stoked, on her way to change the world, and no one — no one — who knows her is surprised.
She spent her last summer here like a ghost. Working around the clock with her three jobs, I’d sometimes go a couple of days with only the smell of her shampoo whizzing past me. She was a blur. Looking back, I realize it was probably the world’s cosmic balance that did this, forcing me to get used to her not being around.
She’s been restless on her journey out of adolescence, and that restlessness had been swelling at a NASCAR pace. By the time the last of the graduation party fire pits had smoldered, she was done with her insignificant small town. She was college-bound.
I get that; she is her mother’s daughter after all.
I waited a couple days after we dropped her off before venturing into her room. To be completely honest, I could’ve gone in with a steam cleaner or a backhoe. (Cue the knowing nod from every mother of a teenage daughter.) It was bad. I had bitten my tongue the last few weeks of summer because I just wanted a nice, argument-free send-off. It was stressful enough just getting to departure day, so I let the room go into zombie apocalypse/Area 51 locale condition.
Still, as the hours ticked away on her final night at home, I could tell her anxiety was revving — as witnessed by the psychotic and shrill “Where’s my insurance card?!” followed 10 minutes later by a barely audible, “Oh, here it is.”
That happened a few times.
She left in a breathless whir of excitement and anticipation for a new chapter, and it was everything the books say it should be: melancholy, bittersweet, and (far be it for me to lie) a little bit of “can’t wait” on both of our behalves.
I sent my oldest son off to the Air Force Reserves a couple of years ago, so this certainly isn’t my first rodeo of shipping a kid off. With him, it was different though. Where she is restless, he was reckless. Seriously, I never slept so well as the day he was safely nestled in boot camp. (Cue the knowing nod from every mom of a reckless teenage boy.) So I know a thing or two about missing my kids.
I find myself being so genuinely excited for her, I don’t miss her as painfully as I thought I would. She checks in often enough (way more than she did while she was here full-time). She’s providing more detail about her experiences than even asked for, and basking in the pretend grown-up lifestyle that she’s been so desperately craving.
To be clear, I am fully aware this will come back to kick me in the ass when she returns for winter and summer breaks. I know the “Rules? What is this notion of rules you speak of?” litigation is percolating. For sure, good times are a-comin’…
So while she’s gone, I will wait patiently for her next call or text and savor each tiny daily victory that finds me not rushing around like a madwoman each morning looking for my comb, or cream, or mascara, or my beige sandals with the cork heels. (Why look for them, when they are without question in her dorm room?)
For the time being, there are no wet towels on her floor.
Yet I don’t have anyone to watch Rock of Ages with each and every time I find it on cable.
My heart feels a little pinging sensation when I realize, with surprising sadness, I don’t have to special order a vegetarian dish when we order takeout.
And I am decidedly not smelling expensive shampoo so often (Old Spice and Axe, yes. Herbal Essences, nope.)
But I know she is only gone for a while.
And I miss her. A lot.
As I was wrapping up this piece, another text from her came through which read simply, “I miss you guys.”
See that? Maybe all that lunatic-fringe-psycho-Mom-get-me-outta-here stuff isn’t brimming on the surface anymore.
Maybe she heard an ’80s song from Rock of Ages and thought of me.
Maybe after getting my picture text, she’s a little excited to sleep in her clean room on Thanksgiving.
No matter the reason, you know I’m saving this text.