It’s been many years since I put my oldest son on the school bus on the corner of Leo Street in Darien, Connecticut. Bethany, Nathan and I waved him goodbye and played in the fallen leaves on our way to our house. No one but me felt the tug of a chapter ending as my oldest and bravest forged his way into an academic career that would include elementary, middle, and high school, the university and law school. It’s been many more years since my parents dropped me off at the dorm in Utah and made their way back to the only home I had ever known, a place that I would never really ever call home again and even more years since I splashed through the Washington puddles, carrying a school bag, a sack lunch and the heavy weight of home work and my parent’s expectations.
I live in California where the trees are always green and sometimes in their confusion, mistake winter for spring and blossom when the rest of the northern hemisphere is barren. My baby girls, my twins, started their senior year a few days ago, and once again, just like that long ago Connecticut morning, I’m feeling the ache of a closing door. A door that once closed will never, ever reopen. Crisp autumn air, the smell of burning leaves, a world dewy wet and shadowed with an ever present rain cloud—all missing. As are the children in their brand new shoes.
My daughters buy their own clothes in stores where even the music makes me feel old. They might need my car keys, a check for choir, a permission slip for a field trip, but they don’t need me. Not really. I tell myself that this is good. This is how it’s meant to be. If not for the pseudo independence now, next year when I leave them at the dorm and drive back to the only home they have ever known, a place that they may never really ever call home again, it will be too hard.
And it’s already hard. Because although the crisp autumn air, the smell of burning leaves, a world dewy wet and shadowed with an ever present rain cloud are all missing, as are the children in their brand new shoes, I’m still here, wondering how I ever came to this place and how will I ever be happy in a place without them.
I tell myself that finally after so many football games, swim meets, choir and band concerts and high school dramas, I can focus on my writing. In my quiet and tidy house I can create characters whose problems I can solve in witty and clever ways. I can vanquish villains and slay monsters. But inside, I’m hurting because it doesn’t matter if I have writer’s block or if I fill page after page with run on sentences and misplaced modifiers, the horrible truth is I’m going to turn the page on a chapter I don’t want to end. I can visit Connecticut and Utah, I can even go to my childhood home in Washington where my dad still lives. There will be falling leaves and mud-puddles but the children that racked the leaves and splashed in the puddles are gone.
I miss them already.