I see the pictures of my daily Around Atlanta in 180 Days jaunts that I've taped across my wall and I am continually shocked how few days it's really been since my older daughter left for college. Just five weeks ago. Seems longer. Seems like a decade ago already that she and I turned molten glass into fragile ornaments . It seems forever until we'll hang them on our Christmas tree. I knew at the time that hot glass would be symbolic, but I didn't know how. Was it us as individuals in transition? Was it our relationship? Was it the malleable nature of life as it changed before us? Was it the vulnerability of our hearts? It is all those things. Nothing, absolutely nothing, prepared my husband and me for this transition in our family and how a simple shifting of the stars brings so many other things into focus--health, career, finances, lifestyle choices, relationships, the meaning of life, mortality. We are together on this, completely understanding of each other's emotions right now because they are new and distinct to each of us and we share them. Our younger daughter gets the visible daily benefit of our overflowing sentiment right now, and she seems to be enjoying the kind of attention a second-child usually doesn't get. Our older daughter is busy and sounds happy--she was cast in a play, she picked up another major, she took a behind-the-scenes tour of the Carnegie Museum, she's dancing a lot with new friends, she's found all the healthy food, she's planning a summer semester in China. She texts. We send packages. Things seems as they should be. But, my god, who knew? Who knew how this would feel as a parent? Who knew that the ghosts of every moment as a parent lingered everywhere and came out to haunt and taunt? How every song and movie and passing child would conjure up such memories? No wonder all I can think about is moving! Yet, I know this is not the time for that, that this is "home" and that it will feel comforting again one day. We know (or at least we hear from other parents with older children) that this feeling will pass, that the next stages as parents will be rich and rewarding. But, for now, there's this weird, unexpected hole. My husband is listening to sports, not music, when he drives. I ride my bike as often as possible. We watch funny movies (with a big thanks to Woody Allen for his ouevre). And gardening? Well, I guess it makes sense how I feel about that right now.
Gardening has turned out to be a little rough. Turns out I'm out there only as long as I need to be to keep things growing.
Turns out being out there evokes all those years the children frolicked around me while I puttered, all those stories I captured in my book .
Turns out it stabs me in the heart too much right now.
I even quit the community garden I had joined in that other city. No one was ever there when I went, and I was too alone with my thoughts. It's not a healthy place for me right now (but at least the bed is completely ready now for someone else).
Now is the time for my daughters to blossom. And for new buds on the branches of my marriage. And so it goes. And so we grow.