The feelings that come to a Mother after leaving her first born at college, vary from immense guttural pain down in the depths of the under belly, to sliding over razor blades into a giant pool of lemon juice. Dramatic? Perhaps. But is there really an appropriate term or feeling for a first born leaving home?
A Mother’s heart was not made to withstand the forces of a child leaving. Mother’s from the start are made to love, protect and hold these cherished little beings. Somewhere in between holding a newborn and going on college tours, we’re expected to transform all these feelings. We are to smile and wave goodbye to our child, as we leave them at the footsteps of adulthood. This place called college. This place of higher learning, of football games and tailgates. This place of new relationships and finding one’s true self away from the confines of a Mother’s smothering love.
Knowing that our children will come out of this thing called college with a knowledge of all things deemed important, should really make us quite glad to drop them off. Child, when you’re done in 4 years you will be so smart and knowledgeable. You’ll enter the work force, get married, have a family. This thing called college is a road to you growing up and doing what we all are to do in life, to have purpose.
And yet, I can’t stop the overwhelming feelings of deep, dark sadness. I have yet to find that peaceful place in a Mother’s heart that can let go a little, that can cut the heart strings one at time. Which is why on yet another morning of me waking up without my daughter home, I find myself crying into my avocado toast. I shouldn’t have eaten it in the first place. I know avocado toast is her favorite breakfast. Just the other day she sent me a Snap Chat pic of her breakfast; neatly sliced avocado layered perfectly on a thick slice of artisan bread and expertly crafted espresso drink in hand.
Did I think I could just carry on eating my smashed-up avocado on a wimpy slice of bread, a pathetic version of her favorite breakfast without thinking of her? Lord forbid I think of her. Thinking of her makes my belly hurt, my eyes well up and reminds me why I still can’t wear eye make-up, it will just end up in a puddled mess down my cheeks and my other children will think, oh no, Mother’s done lost it again.
At what point does the pain of separation lessen? I’ve been told, “it just takes time”, “You’ll get used to it”, “At least you have your other children still at home”, “She’ll be back for Thanksgiving in no time”.
These tid bits of culturally appropriate responses to my grief do nothing to lessen the ache. But they do remind me that I’m not the only Mother this fall who left her child at college.
Almost 20 million students will attend college this fall. Somewhere in that number is a gaggle of students whose Mothers broken hearts are being fed by left behind tee shirts that still carry the scent of their child. Mothers who wallow in their child’s bedroom that once emanated loud music and stinky socks. To these Mama’s, nothing said here will make your heart ache any less. But there IS comfort in numbers, and comfort in knowing that they will indeed return home to us, hungry, with suitcases filled of dirty laundry.
I don’t know what tomorrow will feel like. Maybe I’ll think of her a little less, maybe instead of tears when I think of her, it will be a cheerful smile that feels authentic. I don’t know what tomorrow will look like. But I do know that it will not start with avocado toast.