“How selfhood begins with a walking away, and love is proved in the letting go.”
―C. Day Lewis
It’s when they take the bed out of the room that you know it’s all over.
A few years back, my youngest kid went to college. And I was a suck about it all. As proud as I was that he was “all grown up,” I hated that those childhood years were behind him. Behind me. Me. Yes, it’s me everyone should be thinking about. The mother.
When he left for school, his room stayed pretty much the same. The closet still held his yearbooks, and basketball trophies — the clothes he’d outgrown years ago were still squeezed between his Varsity jacket and lone black suit. The room was still a bedroom — with a bed, dresser, desk. It was still his bedroom. And that made the leaving part so much easier.
And now, in just two days, that bed will be packed into a U-Haul and carted off to Alabama. Five hours away.
When I tell people my son is moving away, I get a lot of “Wow, that’s exciting. What an adventure.” And what I want them to say is this: “Oh my God, I can’t believe he’s moving so far away.” Yea, again, it’s all about me, right? And yes, I’m excited for him. I am. As the youngest of four, he wants to fly. Be on his own. Start his own life. I get it. He’s got this. But I’m also nervous. And, yes, I’m sad. I’m really just kind of sad that it’s really happening.
I wrote in his journal last night. The journal I’d been writing in since he was a toddler. (Sorry, I guess I should have warned you from the get-go that this is going to be a sappy post. I will understand if you stop reading here — especially if you’re a mother. I hear ya. )… So, yes, he’ll be taking that journal with him when he leaves. It’s his story (so far.) That last entry was a tough one. Went through an entire roll of toilet paper as I filled the pages with all kinds of motherly advice. “Change your sheets every week.” ‘Use baking soda to absorb odors in your fridge.” “Buy a fire extinguisher.” “Brush your teeth.” “Call your mother. Once a week, at least. Text as often as you like, but call.” I scribbled and scribbled, madly gathering life’s questions and making sure I’ve told him everything he needed to know. Though I know I’ve been preparing him for this his entire life, why does it feel like I’ve missed something?
He’ll figure it out, I know. On his own. It’s how it’s supposed to be–even if it does suck for me, the mother.
My own mother arrives in town for a visit on Wednesday. How serendipitous is that, eh? And as I sit here thinking of my son being so far away from me, it does make me think of how I just up and left all those years ago. I moved to an entirely different country, without giving a single thought to how my mother felt about it. I never even asked her what she thought of the idea. I was a grown up, after all. Capable of making my own life decisions. I didn’t really consider the fact that other people would be impacted by my decision to move away.
Yea. Feeling a little selfish now.
[ Insert full circle moment here]
And as I reflect on my own decision to move away–as sad as I know it probably made my mother feel–I know I would do it all over again. It was my journey to take. And no one was going to talk me out of it. I guess my mother knew that. She understood it. Her own journey began when she left home at just 18 years old. She packed her bags and moved across the country, from Newfoundland to Ontario. And, I’m sure her mother, my grandmother, was sad to see her go — and yet excited that she was beginning a new life.
So my son has his own journey to take, now. It’s his turn. And the greatest gift I could give him is to let go and trust in him. And I’m trying. I really am.
And I will be fine (in case you wondered, since it’s really all about me)… just not today.
(Repeat after me: “It’s a beginning, not an end. It’s a beginning, not an end…”).
This week is going to serve up some life lesson shit. I can just feel it.