I walked with a determined gait through the airport doors after I hugged my adult son goodbye.
My tenacious walk was designed to communicate to him that I still had a purpose in life apart from being his mother.
It was the same walk I had adopted when I left him at the preschool gate some 23 years earlier, at his university campus, and more recently, after his wedding.
The same stoic, and yet if I’m brutally honest, somewhat fake walk.
I reached airport security and slung my carry-on bag onto the escalator in one swift motion in case he was still watching because I wanted to appear just as he had remembered me as a young boy—youthful and able. Able to scoop him up off the floor in one swift action straight into my arms. Able to quiet all his fears.
Once through security, the decision to look back was also one fraught with uncertainty. I mean, should a mother look back for one last desperate glimpse of a son who was now a fully grown man? Perhaps not, but I looked back anyway.
There he stood, framed in the airport doorway, watching my departure. My heart leaped, remembering that very first glimpse of him walking toward me after a long day at primary school, shirt hanging out, kicking up dust in his heavy, uncomfortable school shoes.
My eyes unexpectedly filled with tears and an irrational sense of shame rose up. Mother shame, you know the sort, the sort that said I should have seamlessly moved into the next season of my life already.
From a distance, I could barely recognize the tall, broad-shouldered silhouette he had become. He tossed me a final wave, turned, and walked briskly away.
That final meaningful wave.
The closing of a door that had been ajar for almost a third of my entire life.
Motherhood seems like the longest meandering path until suddenly, without warning, it ends.
We are left to find our own way home.
And it is in the finding of our way home that our step regathers, and our mother heart finally finds time to reflect on the journey past.
We walk on with a swirling mix of grief, hope, and joy.
Grief that one season is closing, hope that we have done enough to prepare them, and joy for the days to come.