Moving On...

We are in the apartment of the Eldest Unnamed One. It is the big, final Move In Day and the time has come to say goodbye. He sits in the swivel armchair he’s spent the morning assembling while I lean against the doorframe beside him.

“You know,” he says. “It’s weird. One minute you live at home and the next you’re in some apartment on your own.”

My heart snaps right in two. I can’t help myself. I reach over and pretend to flick a piece of dust from a lock of his hair. I won’t make this any harder than I know it already is- for both of us. After all, this is the brave boy who finally burst into tears on his fifth birthday after I’d said for the millionth time that day, “Now you’re Mama’s Big Boy.”

“I don’t want to be your Big Boy!” he’d sobbed. I want to be who I am!

I realize now it was my adjustment to make- my baby was no longer a toddler. It was time to let go of that phase and begin the next one. I was the one who had to remind myself of that, over and over again, until I could find some peace with losing my treasured baby to a more independent child- the child who marched up the steps of the Kindergarten bus and never once looked back.

I know now how hard that must have been for him, what inner strength my child uses to make those big transitions seem easy. Funny how we learn so much, often in retrospect, from our precious children.

Lately, more so than ever, I try and think what my own father would do- or did do- when faced with one of these life-altering situations. I summon up memory and try to respond as I imagine he would. This one is easy. We had so many goodbyes, so many times, and always he made the parting easy on me.

Once, after I’d moved 800 miles away to live in the South, I asked him how he stood the long times between our visits because I was so homesick.

“Oh,” he said. “I create my Nancy in my head and even when you’re not here, when I miss you, I just summon her up and there’s “my” Nancy. I store up our times together and play them back and it’s like you’re right here.”

I believed him then. I felt much less guilty about having chosen to run off to the far away south. I had more strength to live my new life.

Every single leave-taking was the same, even his dying. He always smiled but he always walked us out to our cars then stood watching until we were out of sight. The last image we would have in our rearview mirrors was always that of him standing there, smiling and waving goodbye.

Later, when the boys were teenagers and I knew how much our visits meant, I would drive around the bend in the road, stop and cry because it was always so hard to leave him.

He would always be sure, at some point in our visits to tell me how proud he was of us, how great it was to watch us becoming the people we were. Dad packed us full of confidence and unconditional love- the sent us back out into our worlds without one string attached.

And we always came back home.

“It’s weird. One minute you live at home and the next you’re in some apartment on your own,” he said.

“I know,” I answered. “It’s gotta feel a little strange but cool, huh? I mean, your first apartment. College. Wow! I am so proud of you. You guys are gonna be fine.”

“I know.”

“Besides,” I can’t help but add. “We’re only an hour away and you know how us moms are, always looking to feed you or maybe even pop in now and then, just to maybe bring you a casserole or something. It’s not like you can get rid of us so easily.”

The Wench Beloved, having just been through all of this with her mom, studies the screen of her laptop with fierce intensity, pretending not to be a part of this conversation but I know her by now. I see the quick blink of her eyes and feel the emotion that sits just on the edge of spilling over.

I stand up; look at the Youngest Unnamed One and Mertis and say, “Well, we’d better get on the road and let these two get settled in.”

“I’ll walk you out,” the Eldest said. There is so much of his grandfather in this child. I love him so very much.

We walk out to the parking lot and he watches us from the top of the fire escape. I remember suddenly all the times he’d ride off to school with his father and I would come running out at the last minute in my bunny slippers and bathrobe, my hair sticking out at all angles and cry, “Bye-bye, Honeycakes!”

“Wait!” I instruct. “Don’t move! I need a picture!” A picture just like every other first day of school, a picture to remember the passing of yet another year. A picture that doesn’t need to be taken because the memories are etched forever in my heart.


Heather said...

This is such a great post, Nancy...it brought tears to my eyes and made me think back to my own parting with my mom when I first moved away for college. I always thought that she took it so well and secretly wondered why she wasn't as upset about it as I was. Now, maybe I think she wasn't as unaffected as I thought..she was just trying to make it easier for me. I can only hope that I can do the same thing that you did when the time eventually comes for me to be standing in the very same place.

SoloMother said...

Oh, dear. I'm in tears again. Thank you for this.

You have wonderful boys. and you're an amazing mom.