End of Summer

Today, my youngest daughter, Elizabeth, is packing to return to college.  I have watched my kids do this  countless times, and yet, I will never really get used to it.  There is nothing quite so lonely as looking at your child’s empty closet and neatly made bed.   She will, of course, leave something behind; a stray pair of shoes, a rumpled skirt, a necklace.  I will wonder if I should mail them to her, thinking she will need them, but in the end, I will not.  As always, I will keep them as insurance that she will return home to them.  And to me.

When my children were babies, I was a stay at home mother.  I loved this time.  I never minded getting up to nurse at 3AM.  I never minded that my shirts had spit up stains and my hair, once long to my waist, had to be cropped short so I could finish a shower and shampoo in less than five minutes.  I loved watching Sesame Street and Reading Rainbow, and baking oatmeal cookies for bagged lunches, and weaving friendship bracelets.  I loved looking in the rear view mirror to see sleepy little heads nodding in car seats.  I loved kissing boo-boos to make them better, making teddy bear toast for breakfast, and creating bubble beards in the bathtub. 

Too soon the days of being home with the kids came to an end. They went to school and I went to work, and no longer did we have the luxury of knowing that each day would be pretty much like the last.  I came to relish summer when the kids could sleep late in the morning and stay up late at night.  For me, summer was a celebration with untrimmed hair, bare feet and eating ice cream for breakfast.   Summer was reckless and irresponsible.  It was fireworks and silly stories and catching grasshoppers from the tall grass in the back yard.  For me, summer was childhood.

But every year,  when the August sun bleached the grass dry and a harvest chill stole the warmth from the summer night skies, I began to dread the fall, when school and homework would force a routine of scheduled meals and bed times .  Although New England autumns painted the trees with regal gold and scarlet, and the air became cheerfully crisp and invigorating, I would mourn, just a little, for the passing of yet another summer.

 Every parent knows that our role in life is to prepare our children to fly on their own.   Like labor, it is a long and painful transition for which we are never quite prepared.  It seemed to me that my children were always a step ahead of me.  They weaned before my milk ran dry.  They walked before I wanted to stop carrying them.  Before I knew it, I was watching them walk away from me- to first grade, to a first dance, to a first love, to college, to a first apartment.   It is not that the time snuck by before I realized it.  I saw it passing.  I tried to hold on.  But time, like summer, like children, cannot be held in one place.

 Elizabeth has almost finished.  This is her senior year of college, and she is proof positive that I have fulfilled my job.   The carefree summer of her youth is coming to a close and soon, she will assume the mantle of fall with its responsibilities and obligations. 

I should be rejoicing, but the congratulations cannot slide past the lump in my throat.  I fake a grin- never let them know that you are dying inside- and offer to hold the suitcase down while she closes the lid.

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3 Comments

  1. How well I know this feeling. Oh, the tears I wept as each of you eight children left the nest.

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  2. Wonderful, G.

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  3. Missy

     /  August 7, 2010

    I’m sharing that lump in my throat this year. It’s a hard one to swallow.

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