Two of my sons leave for different colleges today, neither too far from home yet both still physically distant from my aching heart. Two cars are packed to the gills with clothes, Rubbermaid paraphernalia, sports equipment, school supplies, bedding. My sons are off to function as single adults with no one to pick up after them or rub their tired shoulders during a hearty homeade breakfast. (Why are they not more sad about this?)
I should be ruminating over the freedom of a foyer without that everlasting pile of stinky
tennis shoes or a kitchen table not littered with unfinished homework. But all I can think about right now is the smell of Johnsons & Johnsons in their silky little boy hair and the weight of their bottoms in my lap as I read Curious George. Inquisitive eyes as they ask questions about the marvelous world around them and wait expectantly for an answer they’ll believe without question. No debate or discussion about privileges or responsibilities. Only wide-eyed adoration and little boy arms around my neck.
I want to throw up. I do.
My boys are gone, and I crave them. Even as I survey the wake of shirts and binders they left behind, I crave it all.
Can I go see them at college? Sure, but I won’t for awhile, especially not to see my freshman. That’s what’s killing me. The self-control I must exert so he can spread his wings and make his own mistakes hurts worse than surgery. I must extend him the respect to call me (or not call me) and the liberty to not come home. Yuk.
I tried explaining this struggle to my college junior last night, as he put his arm around my shoulder in tender understanding.
I said, “My heart literally hurts.”
“But not physically. Just emotionally,” he soothed.
“No, physically. I am literally in pain.”
His face showed confusion.
Some day, he’ll get it.
He’ll have a deja vu moment like I did yesterday in the car, while I studied my freshman’s profile as he drove down the road. Stubble covering his chin. His cheekbones, strong and masculine; his blue eyes bright for the future. He laughed and said something that yanked me back 17 years through a blurry vortex, like a scene out of Somewhere in Time. He was briefly transformed into a round-cheeked baby with mischievous blue eyes and a belly laugh that always prompted me to blow loud boofy kisses on his tummy so I could hear it again.
There he was! And then–gone.
I wanted to leap out of my seat and cover his grown-up face with kisses. But I didn’t. I settled back into my seat like Christopher Reeve waiting for Mackinac Island to swallow him whole and put him out of his misery.
My achey, breaky heart! Oh, how do I embrace the future without pining for the past?
I bet mothers have been asking that question for centuries.