The two-and-a-half-hour drive to school wasn’t much better. I tried keeping the mood light, chatting about stupid stuff and singing with the radio. Then Taylor Swift came on with a sappy song that made me feel like a boa constrictor was clenching my heart.
I tried reasoning with myself. Kids grow up. It’s a natural part of life. I always knew this day would come. It’s the ultimate goal of parenting. But every rational thought felt illogical. I’m her mom. From the moment that “plus sign” appeared on the little white stick, it’s been my job to take care of her. Something felt very unnatural - and just plain wrong – about leaving her.
Meanwhile, my husband was fine. Annoyingly fine. He wasn’t an emotional mess. He was calm, cool and collected.
The weekend flew by in a blur. We moved Emily into her dorm, helped her get settled, bought her books, went to church, grabbed some lunch and before we knew it, it was time to go. Hugs. Tears. Laughter. Pictures. Good-bye. I love you. See you soon.
“How many?” The waitress asked at the door.
“Four.” My heart lurched a little. At lunch, we were a party of five. By dinner, we were down to four.
Later that night, Curt and I sat in bed, reading. My phone buzzed.
You guys make it home?
Yep. I smiled as I texted her back. Just getting ready to go to bed. My phone buzzed again.
Okay, I wrote you and Dad a letter. It’s under the left side of my mattress at the top.
I flipped back my blanket, hopped out of bed and hustled into her empty room. There were no pillows or blankets on the bed. No clothes on the floor. Just a few knick-knacks on her dresser that didn’t make the cut to accompany her to college.
I reached under her mattress, found the letter and plopped onto her bed.
Dear Mom and Dad …
Over the next few minutes, I read Emily’s sweet words as she poured out her heart, specifically thanking us for everything we’d done over the past 18 years. Her letter was beautiful. it was obvious she had put a lot of thought into it. Clearly, this girl had her momma’s letter-writing skills.
Suddenly, the boa constrictor was back. This time it attacked with a vengeance. It grabbed at my throat, tightening its grip on the relentless lump growing inside.
But to my surprise, I didn’t cry.
Maybe it was because I had already drained my emotions over the weekend. Maybe the joy finally outweighed the tears. Whatever the reason, no doubt my husband would be glad his blubbering wife was finally getting off her emotional roller coaster.
I walked back to our room and handed Curt the letter. “From your daughter,” I said.
I snuggled under the covers and closed my eyes. I was ready to put the weekend behind me. Just as I drifted off, an abrupt noise came from the other side of the bed.
I looked over as Curt wiped his eyes. Thank goodness, I thought. I couldn’t help but smile.