It started to hit home last night, when she told me of her plans to move her bed into my living room. She continued speaking, wondering aloud about types of screwdrivers, and worrying in a minor way about the potential for losing components of her bed frame. I’d stopped actively listening, though. Unable any longer to ignore the fact of my eldest daughter’s imminent departure, my brain had stuttered to a halt.
Time waits for no man, someone said. At least, I think that’s the quote. Possibly, though, it’s death waits for no man. Both, I’ve noticed, are true.
I’d had an early miscarriage the month prior to Alison’s conception. That baby would have been due near my own birthday, and of course, from the moment you know there’s a baby in your future, your imagination fires. So, the loss is real. The doctor told us we could start trying to conceive again immediately, and that is how Alison became the only one of my four children who was planned.
When, at approximately the same stage of pregnancy that the miscarriage had happened I once again started to spot, I was terrified. I hit my knees. As I was down there, anyway, I told God that since we were talking, not only did I want a healthy child, I also wanted that child to be a red head baby girl. Which is exactly what we got.
See, there is a God.
Quite frankly, the entire pregnancy with Alison sucked. First, there was the spotting and doctor ordered lying on my left-hand side — difficult since at that time I was also raising a one year-old son. Next came the intensely itchy rash which covered my torso and extremities and lasted until I ran out of maternal vitamins two weeks before giving birth. (Apparently, I’d been having an allergic reaction.) Finally, during my last trimester, came the undiagnosed gall bladder attacks. Pain would grip me, so intense I’d throw up, and I’d end up in bed in a cold sweat, thrashing until the worst of the pain dulled enough for me to pass out and sleep the rest away.
And yet, out of a pregnancy which was an ordeal came this human being who is an absolute delight. A human being who, tomorrow, is moving out of my home for the first time.
A mother carries a thousand memories, moments snapped like photographs which spool on a loop, inside the recesses of her mind. There was the way, as a toddler, she’d put her hand to my lips and tell me, “Mommy, don’t sing.” The year she was a tiger, a cat, a ghost at Halloween. That time — and I think she’d proud of this one — when she bit the family dentist. The way she laced up her first pair of ice skates then hit the rink as if she’d been born wearing blades.
There were birthday party manicures and facials. The parade of friends always in and out of our home. Leaning in to hug (and sniff) her when I picked her and some friends up from a school dance and the closing car doors shut the alcohol fumes — as well as her buddies — inside the confines of our car.
I spent nights lying in bed listening to the sounds of her flute from the bedroom next door. Then there was that band trip I chaperoned, and sitting together by a slow-burning California fireplace while most of the kids went hiking in the rain. The feeling of my heart in my throat with her behind the wheel of my car.
Or, how deeply she loved Ashley, her cat. How it feels to hear her chattering away with the sister she ‘ordered’ in the bedroom they once shared. How intensely, incredibly beautiful she looked in her graduation gown. And how our dog, Lily, has a bark that is Alison’s alone.
When she didn’t care about the flowers the first boy brought her, I knew it was only a matter of time until he was history. But when she said told me I should hire the next one for the store I was managing, I knew he’d be sticking around awhile. And having worked with him, gotten to know him, I am truly happy that my baby girl has chosen so well.
Tomorrow, my baby girl moves out of my home for the very first time. I am delighted for her, but still sentimental enough that this morning on my day off I got up at 6:30 am, just so I could drive her to work one last time. Then I drove around our small town for an hour trying to accept the fact that this stage of my journey with my eldest daughter is ending, thankful, at least, that she is not going far, and that yes, I really do like her guy.
Still, I may have cried.
My sister reminded me that it is a good thing that this beautiful person is ready to move forward. I know that, just like I know she is ready, that this is right. But then I told my sister that today I am balanced on the precipice of denial and intend to spend my day escaping into a world of writing fiction. Because, I said to Carolyn, in fiction nobody grows up or moves away unless I tell them it is okay.
And she said, “Good point, Peter Pan.”