Recently, I had the pleasure of taking my college-age daughter, Annelise, and her roommate to lunch at a favorite sandwich shop in their lovely college town only a short distance from home. This was the first time her roomie had joined us. The banter between the two was reassuring; she will be the first of her sisters to have found a friend-for-life roommate.
The other two seemed to end up with the hard-to-live-with types, the ones at the root of the roommate horror stories. The eldest, Claire, found herself paired with an unstable BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) on an emotional roller coaster ride, then a nocturnal nymphomaniac, then a questionably hearing-impaired young lady who boasted of her conquests–teachers and professors whom she had “gotten” by screaming discrimination. Claire chose a non-air-conditioned dorm to get away from the stress. Catherine’s experience was marginally better than her older sister’s but not too much so with one non-bather and another who wound up pregnant and scheming to stay in the dorm suite with a baby and occasional grandmother. Ultimately, Catherine also ended up alone.
Needless to say, Teena is a sweetheart and a mother’s godsend.
My hopes realized, I found myself joining in their banter over lunch. Because Teena is warm hearted, I opened up with honesty, telling her how much I appreciated her affection and patience with Annelise. I recalled the stories from her sisters’ dormitory to Teena, and she laughed easily, commiserating with her own experience in campus living. She told us that she could actually cook and explained the differences between the cooking techniques in regions of India. (I thought all Indians made curry with the same mixture of spices. Turns out Teena’s mother, and now Teena, cook with less intense spices and less heat à la Gujarat, their home in India.) Maybe I can entice the two to come and visit and whip up dinner, I schemed to myself happily.
As we talked, Teena mused about her mother who seemed to be lost without her and her brother at home. She said her mom offered to cook and do laundry if they would come home to visit. “Wow,” Annelise interjected, “Mom doesn’t want us home like that.”
“Of course I do! You’re my kissy-face and my baby! I always cook for you and do your clothes.” I was incredulous.
Then she dropped the bomb. I was caught, red-handed or rather, red-faced. She said that after we hugged and kissed on the day she moved away, she got in the car and drove around the circle and looked through the glass storm door one last time, longingly. She saw me walk to her dad who was standing in the kitchen in front of the stove. She said I raised my arms in a celebratory V as if we had just scored a touchdown. She said she swore, flipped me off, and drove away. So much for a sentimental goodbye. (I thought we had had that. Oops.)
Annelise’s response was as joking as my own when I raised my arms in triumph. I don’t believe she was truly hurt because she knows exactly how I feel about her, how much I love her and want her to make her own life. And, I believe she would be happy to admit that in her heart, she is happy that her dad and I celebrate our newfound freedom, our togetherness. Some people are depressed when their children fly the nest. Not us. We love them as adults who visit us and talk to us about their lives but who leave us to savor our alone time like we have not seen in 27 years.
We have done our do. We have been parents for most of our adult lives, and we loved it all. We will always share in the lives of our children; we will always be parents. We could not be prouder of these incredible human beings who now make their way in the world, so we do celebrate with raised arms and raised hearts.
But, now we are back to our beginning, and the future looks glorious.
Fly away little birdies.