by Theresa Wells
Things are flying fast and furious now as she tosses T-shirts she must have onto the bed and I neatly roll them into tight light bundles to tuck into one of the two massive bags she will take with her. At fifteen this is a huge part of her wardrobe, these T-shirts depicting strange YouTube series I have never seen and quirky web comics I will never read. The T-shirts are followed by the ubiquitous black leggings, the ones she wears almost daily and that are often covered in a fine down of white cat fur. Skirts, socks, pyjamas, and finally, of course, in a layer on the very top, several pairs of shoes, because she is my daughter and has inherited her love of beautiful shoes quite honestly.
She is packing to go away for the entire summer, and I will be without my baby for the longest stretch thus far.
This is one of the things they don’t tell you about single parenting. They don’t tell you about how there may come a summer when your child leaves to spend a couple of months with their other parent and how you will feel happy for them but a bit lost for yourself. They don’t tell you how it feels to pack those bags, to drive them to the airport, to watch their plane leave and then to come home to an empty house.
My daughter and her father are very close, a relationship I both encourage and treasure because it is good for her and because it makes her happy and because I want only the best for her – but it is of course hard on occasion when we live in different cities and being with him means being away from me, but I smile as I kiss her good-bye at the airport (one of the rare times she will allow me to kiss her anymore) and wait until she is past the glass windows in the departure area to allow tears to fill my eyes.
Since her father and I separated there have been many of these departures, but never before one that heralded a time when we would be apart for so long, and it makes my heart ache. I suppose it also makes me understand how her father’s heart must ache when he is away from her during those long stretches between visits, when she is with me and not with him. Nobody tells you about this, you see.
I pack her bags until they cannot hold another pair of leggings or another rolled T-shirt. I think about how she has just finished Grade Ten, and how in two years I will be helping her pack not for a summer but to leave home altogether as strikes out on her own to pursue her dreams at university, an overseas university if one of her dreams comes true. And I suppose I see this summer as a taste of that departure, one that will come hard and fast and when she will be gone not for days or weeks or months, but forever, returning home only for visits and not to stay.
Parenting is my greatest joy, the most powerful source of my happiness – and yet somehow it is also the source of deep sadness as I see her grow up and grow away, just as I suppose I did decades ago when I was her age. It is hard to understand how something capable of making one so happy can make you so sad, too, but I suppose that is the true nature of loving unconditionally and without reservation. It is the kind of love where being together brings a joy unlike any you have ever known, and where being apart brings a loneliness you have never wanted to know.
This summer when she is away I will work, of course, and write, and spend time with her cats that will likely miss her almost as much as I will, and spend time with friends and in my yard, and I will be busy and my life will be full. But when the summer ends, when the nights grow longer and colder and when the plane arrives, I will be there waiting to welcome her and hug her tight, home once more.
Follow me on Twitter @mcmurraymusings