He looked at me and kept walking. Too wound up in laughter and conversation with new friends to acknowledge Mom. A knife through the heart, yet a heart bursting with overwhelming pride and love.
So, was my day yesterday. My youngest son had college orientation–a 3 day event including scheduling, fun, and just getting to know his new home. We went to pick him up and pulled in front of the auditorium where he would be coming out. I wanted to walk with him to his dorm and help him pack up and come home. There he was, my boy, walking out among the other college freshman with wide eyes and wide smiles, knowing that this was the start of a new chapter in their lives. He was surrounded by a group of new friends, but the way they were chatting and smiling, you would have thought they knew each other forever. I yelled for him, so he knew we were there. He looked around, then kept walking, kept talking. My heart hurt. He was in a new city, but seemed completely unfazed and completely courageous.
We drove to his dorm. There he was standing outside, bags in hand, like an old pro. He jumped in my car with the enthusiasm of a kid on Christmas morning, full of stories and excitement. He didn’t just like his new home, he LOVED his new home. “It’s kind of weird,” he said, “we come here and then go home and have to wait another 2 months to start college.” He wanted to be there now, no waiting. He was ready to fly my nest. His wings were dry and he wanted to soar. I just smiled.
It’s what we are supposed to do, isn’t it? We are supposed to nurture our children, give them the right tools to be successful adults, then send them on their way with encouragement, But, somehow when that time comes, we want to stop it. We want them safe at home where we can protect them from the ugliness of the world. But, it’s in the ugliness that they find their beauty. Things have to get messy sometimes in order to become harmonious. I wonder why it hurts so much when it’s what I always wanted. I wanted to raise 2 successful, creative, intelligent, funny, interesting citizens of the world. I wanted them to face life with enthusiasm and sheer abandon. And I did. I should be proud and happy and move on to this new phase in my life with a sense of adventure as what will come next, not just for them, but for me as well.
And I am….but it still aches. Aches for the little blonde boy picking up bugs in the yard and worried for their safety. Aches for the little redhead who loved Elmo and wanted to read every book he got his hands on. Aches for the blonde boy whose first word was “firetruck” and who insisted on becoming a vegetarian at age 5 and still is, by the way. Aches for the curly red-haired boy who asked the principal on the first day of Kindergarten, “Where’s the science lab?”
But those boys are still here, they are just in the guise of extraordinary men, ones ready to conquer the world. The blonde boy now shows me his visions through his lens, a lens that now captures the bugs and the firetrucks with a love that permeates and radiates through the photos he takes. The redhead that sits for hours on his computer, coding games and creating fantastical lands and creatures with that enormous creativity. They are still there and I am still their mom.
So, as they continue on their journeys on the streets of Pittsburgh and the walls of the Corcoran, they know I will always be their number one supporter, unconditionally and with my whole heart. In an odd twist of the universe, there is a bird’s nest on my front porch, inside a hanging basket. I’ve been watching it for the past 2 months, from egg to chick to bird. I watch the mom and dad hover over their babies, feeding them and squawking away at invaders. I watched as the babies began to grow and fight for space in the nest. Today, I looked out, as I do every morning and they were gone. They had left the nest. They were now soaring off to new adventures, creating their own lives. But, there was mom in the tree, chirping away as usual. Ready for her own adventure.