I just returned from Market Basket. That’s important for a number of reasons, but mostly because I got in and out on a Saturday in one hour for half the cost of my last many years of trips.
The reason is the new normal in my house. With my older three in college, we have cut the number who live here in half. This is one of the many things I will enjoy about my new normal. Spending hours and thousands in the grocery store was never my favorite part of the mom job.
That said, it’s quite strange and a bit unsettling to leave your children hundreds of miles away. In our family, this process saw two leave in three days and then another leave three weeks later. The first was the toughest for the whole family, it seemed. It represented the first time in any significant way that siblings would be apart.
In my mind, the trip would be emotional, mostly about life’s next milestone. We would cram a few more life lessons into an endless car trip and reiterate those we felt needed emphasis. What I did not think too much about was the reality of it. That means a lot of packing and unpacking and many more trips to Walmart and Bed, Bath and Beyond than is ideal. Who knew the Walmart in Ithaca, N.Y. was open 24 hours?
We forgot the egg crate pad. We didn’t purchase adequate amounts of Gatorade powder. We could fit more tubs under the bed than we brought with us. A chair would be nice. I vowed to do a better job in two days when I would suddenly become more seasoned at this.
There is nothing like a million trips to Walmart to take some of the drama from the farewell. Still, the final moment was emotional. When you drive off without your child, it is just strange. It almost feels like you forgot him or left him at a rest stop. At first my husband and I were really quiet. Then, he acknowledged the weirdness of it all.
But, we both noted that this life step had been on the horizon since the children were born. So much of their lives pointed this way. They worked toward it. It was what we wanted for them. Then, we stopped at a farm stand for some fresh corn and I bought too much.
When we returned home, I was exhausted, but we needed to do it again. The second time was easier. The school was closer. We were more experienced. This child would be able to come home more easily and we planned some visits to his school to watch games. Still, I was exhausted for the rest of the week. It felt too quiet in the house.
But, I saw some of the upside to my emptying nest. I was better able to sleep at night without a parade of teenagers going out every night and coming in late. However, my sleep was bothered by weird dreams about my kids making bad decisions.
Finally, it was time for the third drop-off, this one by airplane. I think he was the last college-bound kid to leave town and this cut down on the dramatic good-byes with friends. We went south which seemed like a different world to me. He was ready to say goodbye and start his next adventure.
It’s hard to resist the urge to call them or text about every little thing. Do they still care if Big Blue wins a game or if someone sends them regards? I refrained from asking about things like clogged toilets, at least for a week or so. They would learn to solve that one. They might be ready on so many levels, but do they know how to open a bank account? Will they deal with classes and deadlines and details like that? Will they succeed in a new world with new classes, new friends and new experiences? I guess we will find out.
Old habits die hard. The day after we returned from the last college drop-off, I unpacked the box of delicious Georgia pralines we bought at a candy store. I know my daughter wanted to eat one after school so I started to do my usual thing: segregate one and hide it for her.
Then I realized with a mix of sadness and relief that no one was around to steal it.