My youngest daughter is six weeks away from marking the half-way point of her sophomore year in college. She completed her freshman year on the campus of a nearby state university – just far enough away to warrant dorm residency and close enough to visit home for an afternoon, evening or weekend anytime the notion struck.
Now she is 400 miles away from home enrolled in a big-city, private college. My born and bred country mouse is thriving (by all reports) in the excitement of a major metropolis. Yee-gads!
When she first set off to college, she worried about me. “You’re not going to go off the deep end or anything are you?” she asked. “I mean the whole empty nest thing and all?”
I assured her that while I loved her dearly and would miss her greatly, I had been working toward this eventuality for 30 years and was kind of looking forward to it. I have to admit, the true separation anxiety didn’t settle into my heart and soul until this year. Four hundred miles feels like four thousand.
Empty nest, last baby to spread her wings and a few tearful moments here and there put aside, I am so proud of her I’m nearly busting open at the seems. Forget that she is following in – no make that surpassing in great leaps and bounds – her grandfather’s and mother’s journalistic endeavors. She has grabbed hold of her dream and she’s riding it like a cowgirl atop a bucking bronco, with her eye on the prize. Whether she holds on for the full ride, is thrown off a few times before reaching her goal, or decides to set her dream free and watch it gallop off without her, makes no difference in my eyes.
My thought (selfish desire?) that she’d decide the cosmopolitan life wasn’t her destiny after all and would return home post haste seems quite unlikely. If I have any remaining doubt, the life-size posters of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s decorating her dorm-room walls say it all.
So why am I feeling like the bad mother? Because I’ve gone ahead and made the big change. I’ve re-purposed her bedroom! I moved my computer and files in, hooked up a phone line and made it my office. It’s not like I can’t change it back in one afternoon. And I haven’t boxed up all of her things (okay, a lot of them, but not all). I still have some of her artwork on the walls. I’ve hung only my out-of-season wardrobe in the closet with the few things she left behind. And I still have her collection of lucky St. Patrick’s Day figurines on display on the tiered shelf next to her bed.
Jumbled in with my office bric-a-brac, the cacophony is giving the impression that the room belongs to someone with a few too many personalities rattling around in her head (come to think of it, that might be a good thing for a writer). I’m hoping the newly painted, deep mauve walls help calm things down a bit. The color is Shakespeare’s Muse and I chose it without knowing the name. Is that providence or what? Perhaps it will motivate me over the next few years one tenth as much as my daughter has inspired me these last few months.
So, youngest child of mine, if you’re reading this (and I know you are), I hope you know that you can come back any time. You were the last to leave and it was harder to help you fly away from home, but that was my job all along. Now that you are showing me how to reach for a dream and ride it for all it’s worth, maybe some day I’ll be able to follow in your footsteps.
Oh, and just so this doesn’t go to your head, I’m equally as proud of your equally strong minded and free spirited sisters – who will be quick to remind you that their rooms were repurposed the minute the door closed behind them on their way out. And will also remind you they were welcomed with open arms when they returned.