It feels like it just happened — our children are not those little girls who rushed out of the house in the morning, leaving turbulently tossed rooms in their wake. No longer do I hear the soft knock on the bedroom door late (much too late) at night to let us know that our youngest is home, or the breakneck tumble of words positioning the launch of some “must do” escapade that we need only grace with our approval to watch it lurch into motion. It happened seductively, slowly, then in a rush — like being thrown off my feet by a sudden, overwhelming wave. Our oldest had her course mapped out, and then she followed it, step by step, first going to school, then interning summers, and finally moving to Seattle to work for the same company. It wasn’t easy, but certainly predictable, and we still had our youngest at home (well, the term “at home” must be broadly defined as she has wanderlust in her veins). After finishing her degree, she stayed in her university town for several months, something she called a “victory lap”. Finally, it was time for her to come home. I would go into her room and survey the heap of stuffed animals in the corner and the tangle of clothes and stuff in her closet, frozen images of years past she had discarded in her wake. At least we would have a child back under our roof again, and I could breathe.
It was not to be. Before she had even set foot in the door, we took a breathless call that she had taken a sales position and was going to move to New York City. This time she didn’t need our approval; this was her course to chart. A few weeks later, two co-workers arrived on our cul-de-sac piloting a rental truck stuffed with the possessions of other parents’ children. In half an hour, she too was gone. So, our sweet girls’ father and I are living with the ghosts of years past — old school papers, photos, their girl scout vests, boxes of books, Barbies, and other once-treasured possessions. Out of self-defense, I keep a bedside light on in our baby’s room. It shines out a window overlooking the street. I can see its soft glow when I drive home, and I think of her and her sister and how much I love and miss them, and how proud I am of the women they are becoming. It comforts me.