"Every day is a journey and the journey itself is home."
- Matsuo Basho
She’s only 10 minutes away. I’ve been telling myself this for a couple weeks, and it mostly works.
It was different when my older daughter moved into the dorm at Chapman five years ago. For starters, I had to work and couldn’t help with the move that day. I also believed that Amanda might live with me again for at least part of her remaining three years of college, or after she finished. It was different this time. Moving Brooklynn into the CSULB dorm had more of a sense of finality to it. My apartment lease expires in February. I’m planning to become homeless at that time, so Brooklynn won’t be able to move back in with me after her Freshman year. In fact, I don’t know if and when I will ever live under the same roof with her again. What a strange thing to realize. What a heartbreaking thing to feel.
I knew this day was coming. Although I wasn’t conscious of it in the moment, it was something I knew from the moment I first held her. All mothers do. I counted on it, almost as much as I dreaded it.
Of course, I imagined that my oldest daughter would be the first to ‘fly the nest’. She did. But she also returned home and is living with me now (at least until our lease expires). That will be the next letting go. As Winter transitions to Spring, she will move into her dad’s apartment and has plans to do some solo traveling in the coming years. My daughters and I are all moving in different directions.
Mostly I will miss the idea of ‘us’ as a family unit. Even after I separated from her dad (more than a decade ago), my girls have always ‘lived’ with me, even if it was just part-time. They spent time at their dad’s place, but always came back home every few days or every other week. Since they were born, I’ve imagined them growing up to become confident and independent. We talked about college and marriage and children – all of the potential places that life may take them. It all seemed so distant. Amanda was first to graduate high school, start college, study abroad, graduate college, travel, and begin a new career. Now it’s Brooklynn’s turn. I miss her already, even though she lives within five miles of here.
Everything is changing – as it should. It’s exhilarating! I’m excited for all of us, but I'll miss living with my daughters more than words can express. Besides seeing them less frequently, here are some specific things that I’ll miss…
Videotaping or taking photos on the first day of school. Watching them do homework on weekday afternoons. Waiting in the line of cars to drop them off at school in the mornings. Taking off work early to watch them play volleyball or basketball. Listening to their teachers rave about them at parent teacher conferences. Playing double solitaire for a penny per card. Music blaring as they dance their way through dinner clean-up and dish washing. Conversations on the couch about life, family, friends, spirituality, politics, feminism and sex. Realizing that I couldn’t always tell our clothes apart in the laundry anymore. Being able to borrow each other’s clothes. Impromptu photo shoots. Asking them for fashion advice or letting them do my make-up for me. Running a couple miles or taking a yoga class together. Complaining about my list of “800 things to do”. Listening to Amanda scream in terror as Brooklynn materialized in her closet. Chatting with them on ‘snuggle’ nights when they were still young enough to want to spend the night in my room. Funny videos of mannequin head dances or goofy mirror tricks. Celebrating backwards day – a holiday we created where we wore our clothes backward, walked around backward, started the day with dessert and dinner, and ended the day with breakfast. Going to school assemblies to see them receive awards. Writing in their journals each year on their birthday. Finding Brooklynn’s dried out contact lenses everywhere – I mean everywhere. Trying to plan my social calendar around their work schedules so that we could have dinner together. Taking them out to eat too often because I was too tired to cook or hadn’t had time to buy groceries. Decorating the Christmas tree every year – I did the lights and they added the decorations. Planning birthday parties – “pink parties”, Chuck E. Cheese parties, survivor-themed parties, garage dance parties, beach parties, and Sweet Sixteen parties. Buying school supplies. Starting every road trip with a Starbucks run. Getting caught in in the act while performing Tooth Fairy duties. Summer vacations that took us to New York, Chicago, Colorado, Hawaii, and Costa Rica. Carrying them to my bed when they were running a fever so that I could reach out and touch their cheek every hour or two and make sure they were okay. Checking my phone every couple hours on nights when one or both of them are out – looking for check in –texts or using GPS to see where they are. Okay, maybe I won’t miss that much, but I’ll miss the sense of relaxation I felt each time I heard the door open and knew they were home safe.
Home. What does that word mean? For half of my life, it described a place that I shared with my daughters. Despite the fact that we moved several times, there was always a place that we came back to in the evening or after our travels. It was a place where we kept and accumulated a lot of stuff - furniture, dishes, clothes, books, decorations and keepsakes. It was a place where we stored laughter and memories, some we took with us each time we moved, some we left behind for those who would live there when we left.
It feels sad to imagine that we will all call different places "home" in the years ahead. On a deeper level. I understand that home is a place in my heart where both of them will always be safe. It is less a place to return to than it is a place that I carry with me. Knowing this doesn't erase the sadness I feel right now, but it softens it enough to make it bearable.