Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nest, leaving the nest

I'm driving my youngest child, Kurt, to college tomorrow, with his stuff. A few hours before we leave, the wife of a friend and colleague will give birth to their second child, a girl, by planned cesarean.

To call this day "beginnings and endings" would lay this almost-empty-nester open to charges of being over-dramatic. But the two events occurring more or less together leave me feeling that eighteen, almost nineteen years can sure seem like a short time.

And since that eighteen-year-old is still out with friends for the last night until Thanksgiving break, I have some time to think. I may doze off, but I won't sleep soundly till he's safe at home for one last night.

I'm not a person who dotes on babies. They don't turn me to mush. No, I hold back, because the pleasure and power of holding a newborn, or a three-month-old, or even a wiggly one-year-old, is not a mushy, sentimental thing. Mother love is something else entirely. I'm struggling to find words that are not cliches. Perhaps that's because there's nothing new to say, or because I'm really not up for poking and prodding myself until I bleed.

People have been having babies for a long time. As I sit here thinking about it, I pull my arms in toward my breasts, my shoulder. More than anything, raising babies is about this physical closeness.

I remember holding this child who goes off to college tomorrow in my lap, supported by couch cushions, and smiling with so much of myself I was amazed. He made me so happy just by being. Still does, though I doubt he knows it. How could he, until he holds his own child in his arms?

(Note to Eliza and Kris: the same goes for you two, now, though I loved you more fiercely than contentedly when you were babies.)

When I think about leaving this last of my children at college, there's kind of a hole in front of me. I could bemoan  the fact that there will be no one left at home to cook interesting food for. I could recall the late-night piano playing with the repeated chord sequences that drove me nuts. I can even look forward to just going to bed when I'm tired, rather than debating the parenting ethics and practicality of waiting up. But the hole isn't about any of those things. It's the contradiction of loving someone who is me and not-me, who came from me but goes his own way. And carries my heart with him.

There's pink yarn in my knitting bag for the car tomorrow. I'm looking forward to the pictures on Facebook. Great adventures begin tomorrow, for all.

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