In one week we will, once again, be leaving our daughter—the always delightful Fangette— in the wilds of Vermont where she will attempt, no doubt successfully, to complete her second year of college. I am not looking forward to it.
What a difference the year has made—for all of us. A year ago I could hardly wait to be rid of her. In the weeks and months that preceded her departure for college she had become, to put it bluntly (and mildly), a royal pain in the ass. We were both ready, or so I thought, to put four-hundred miles between us.
That I became borderline clinically depressed in the weeks that followed her departure came as a surprise to me. I knew I would miss her. After all, pain in the ass or not, I love my kid. Still, I was wholly unprepared for the level of separation anxiety that I would experience.
I could not go into her room without bursting into tears. The cereal aisle in the grocery store prompted the same response. While I could avoid the aisle, I could not help but spy her favorite cereal in someone else’s cart. Blurry-eyed, I would march down the aisle, pick up the cereal, and include it in one of the many care packages that I would send over the course of those first few harrowing weeks that she was away.
These packages included her favorite foods (butter cookies in the blue tin!), items of clothing that I decided that she should not be without (snazzy socks!), and, of course, blank cards that I would inscribe with heartfelt sentiments (“We love you!”; “We miss you!”; “We’re so proud of you!”). To insure that she at least opened the cards, I resorted to sticking money in them—and notifying her via text that the cards “just might contain a ‘surprise’, LOL!”.
I have no idea if she read them. She never mentioned their contents. Had she not texted a cursory “Thanks for the $20, Mom!” message, I would never have known that they had been opened.
In hindsight I can admit that the packages were not for her. They were for me. They—the cookies, the socks, the cards—were my way of maintaining our connection, a connection which suddenly felt in danger of slipping away.
We visited in October. She came home for short periods in November, December, and March. With each visit I noted a change in my daughter. While I spent our time apart floundering, she used that time more wisely. She flourished.
She did not return for the summer, as I had feared she might, a stranger. Instead, she arrived happy and much more fully formed than I could ever have imagined. Being away certainly softened some of her sharper edges.
I can honestly report that I like her now, just as much as I have loved her always. That being said, I have no idea how I will feel next week when she returns to school. Absent the worries about how she will fare, knowing that she will be fine, will I fare better? Will I be fine?
Time will tell. In the spirit of preparedness I have laid in a supply of sappy cards and put away a few crisp twenties just in case I feel the need to unnecessarily remind her that we love her, that we miss her, and that we are proud of her.