My oldest daughter is heading for college in a few days. I'll be driving her there -- well, we'll be taking turns at the wheel, switching back and forth between her and my "road trip" playlists. A couple of days later, I'll be driving back alone.
I remember being on the other side. I remember coming home on college vacations, talking a mile a minute to my mother in the kitchen, still feeling pretty much at home. I remember later visits, and the gradual shift in my relationship with my parents. I remember realizing that what had been effortless and natural was, at times, more awkward and uncertain. I remember realizing that when I needed comforting, my mother wasn't always the one who could.
All of which makes the coming transition somewhat terrifying.
Before having children, I was not especially comfortable with children -- especially small children and babies. My first child's birth -- or more precisely, the period from her birth to a few weeks afterward -- transformed me in a fundamental way. In becoming a mother, I became a very different being. I have other interests, and in a modest way other goals, unrelated to my role as parent -- but they are secondary.
I'm pining in advance for the particular things I'll be losing -- my daughter's daily presence, the knowledge that if she isn't around the house now, she will be in a few hours; our quick and cautious hugs. Thanks to Live Journal and Twitter, I'll still get to enjoy her quirky creativity and sense of humor on a maybe-daily basis, but diluted by the absence of tone of voice, gesture, body language. But the feeling of impending loss goes beyond that, in some way I haven't put my finger on.
I have a different perspective now on what it's like for my parents, making do with frequent phone calls and very infrequent cross-country visits. And it could be, and for many has been, so much more drastic a deprivation. This country of immigrants was founded on the grief of parents left behind. I can hardly conceive of how many parents had to say such a final and thorough goodbye. I cannot imagine what it was like to go on with life after such an amputation.
I will have, I hope, a better chance now of remembering to cherish my younger daughter's remaining time at home, despite all the sound and fury, the angst, the turmoil of the high school years. I wish she didn't have to bear her own loss, the loss of her sister's presence and everyday support, the vacuum Liana will leave behind.
And now, time to start packing. Time for roadside breakfasts, motels, hotels, confusion, orientation, disorientation. Time to get my daughter launched on her way. I'll be the one wearing waterproof mascara.