Memory ghosts dance in the periphery of my mind.
Even though three weeks have passed since I dropped her off—my baby, the youngest of my children—two states and 400 miles away, I still find myself thinking and worrying and remembering and questioning. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat.
On that last day, we’d gotten up early and grabbed coffee and road snacks. She drove us, just she and I and her old Ford Bronco on the open road. The wind whistled through rattling windows—old rigs are so loud. The totes packed in the back filled in a void of words we didn’t say. She blasted the playlist she’d compiled for the trip; and I swore I’d lose it if Stevie Nicks’ voice crooned from the speakers about landslides and changes. Too soon, Stevie, too soon.
Everything happened too soon.
This drive to move her away from home. Her senior year of high school. The last 18 years. The first steps. Her delivery—1.5 hours after arriving I arrived at the hospital. Just too fast.
Memory ghosts drift in the periphery of my mind.
As I watched her drive, I remembered how as a young child she preferred not to be held but cried when I’d leave the house without her. Pangs of guilt had haunted me as I left for work, or a conference, or date-night with dad, or time with a friend.
Will she be okay? Will she get enough sleep? What if she lives on energy drinks and ramen noodles? Will she miss me?
I rode with my index finger hooked in the wing-window latch to steady myself, not so much from the bouncing rig as from my jumbled emotions. I told myself everything would be fine. This it is the natural progression of things. It will be all right, mama.
Memory ghosts haunt the periphery of my mind.
I thought of the failings I believed I’d made as a parent—the times I had lost my temper and raised my voice, the times I had forgotten that thing I was supposed to remember, the times I didn’t listen as well as I should have, the times I said no when she begged me to say yes. And I worried. Time’s up. There are no do-overs.
Will she make friends? Will she like her classes? What if she never leaves her dorm room? Will she miss me?
I hope she knows I’ve tried my best to teach her, to show her what to watch out for, to be wary of, and what to take joy in and relish. I want her to know that I tried to change the narrative and give her what she needed. Give her what I had needed.
Will she be happy? Will she remember the good things? What if she thinks I screwed everything up?
Will she miss me?
Memory ghosts scatter in the periphery of my mind.
We arrived at her dorm, and I stood to the side to let her do her things. To fill out the forms and be the grownup. On the outside, I smiled and nodded my head. I lavished her with praise and told her how much pride I felt for her.
Inside, though, on the inside, I yearned for an answer to all my questions. I yearned for feedback and review. This motherless mother needed reassurance and approval.
Mom, I will be okay. I’ll get enough sleep, and I’ll eat well. I will make friends, and if I don’t like my classes, I can change them. I promise to explore and not stay holed up in my dorm room. You’re a great mom, Mom. You did well, Mom. I will miss you, Mom.
But I knew better. I KNOW better. Reassuring the mother is not the role of the child.
It is her time to fly and to make her own way.
It is my time to know I have done enough and take comfort in the knowledge that I am not alone in this experience. Parents have been learning to let go since the dawn of time.
It will be all right, mama.
I’ll take refuge in the memory ghosts that dance in the periphery of my mind.