What it really means for me is that I need to focus on my own life now, when I have used mothering as an excuse, a focus that I couldn’t take my eyes off entirely. Now I can. If I am ever going to get to it, it is now.
I am sitting on a gold corduroy wing-backed chair behind a bay window in a three story walk up, looking out on the intersection of Addison and Fremont. I can see the L whiz by and beyond that the curve of Wrigley Field. A steady stream of cars slow and go below me at the intersection ruled by a simple red sign. I take in the view of 7:15 am on a Friday morning in late August. Figures enter my field of vision one by one. Some on the seat of a bicycle, some jogging with cords draped from their ears, some unseen in a stroller pushed by a mother.
I watch with the eyes of a visitor. It is a new and attractive bustle for me. Soon I will be heading to the airport, to fly home. I have settled my youngest daughter Bea in this apartment of strangers; friends of friends who happen to have a room to sublet for a few months. Bea is part of the mix today, traveling to orient herself on a new campus for a graduate program.
I have witnessed many firsts in my children’s lives, and I am the mother of three. First smile, first tooth, first steps, first day of school. It’s like that today. My heart beats a little faster as I watch out the window where she will navigate a new route. I can’t help but anticipate traffic, tolls, getting lost. She is on her own.
I made her breakfast this morning while she got ready. A bagel with peanut butter and sliced bananas, wrapped in a paper towel for the road. I brewed coffee in a travel cup. I fixed her a turkey sandwich, adding lettuce and a slice of cheese. Put carrot nuggets in a baggie with a small container of hummus. Tucked in an apple.
I watch her from this window as she unlocks her car, situates her backpack, purse and tote. I can see her shiny hair swing, her movements graceful and quick. I feel a pang of sadness. Something very big is finished now, this lunch packing and watchfulness I have cultivated over many years. I told myself I would be relieved to no longer have to do these things, but now I feel less needed. Less important. It must reshape itself into something else.
The pangs of worry will always come, in my chest and heart. For all three. The stakes are higher, the distances greater, some of the growing needed on their end. But I know I have done what I can, have packed the last lunch. For now. I need to get out and be part of the flow, heading someplace.
I write a note in this chair, for later when Bea gets home from her first day. “I leave you today with a fluttering in my stomach, as you enter a new life, new studies, new community. I leave you prepared with a level head, a kind heart and a strong will. I leave you with the knowledge that I am always with you, behind you with words of encouragement, next to you with a listening ear, and ready for you to lead.”
I take one more look around the apartment, carry my bag down the stairs, cross the street to the transit station. I stare at the menu of various routes and fare cards. A CTA worker asks if she could help.
“Where do I catch the L to the airport?”
“Right here. The 152 bus will take you down Addison to the Blue Line or you can walk up those steps and get on the red line. It takes you downtown where you get the blue line. They both go to the airport. Either way, you’ll be fine,” she said.