This weekend, after seven years of dating, getting engaged and setting a wedding date, my older daughter has decided it’s time to move out of our home. It’s a big step. A milestone. It’s the natural progression of events. It’s the way things are done today. I’ve been expecting this day to come. It’s not a surprise. She has been semi moved out for years already, spending half her time here and half with her fiancé. She has to live her life the way she wants to and she has a good head on her shoulders. I know she is happy because I hear it in her voice and see it on her face. That’s all I have ever wanted for her. We’ve been blessed to have her home for 28 years, and now her future is with her fiancé, who we love.
But now I have a half-empty nest. My emotions are conflicted at the moment. I am very happy for my daughter and feel blessed she has found a man she can share her life with and who makes her happy. It’s the circle of life getting fuller, but I am feeling a little empty right now. I know it will pass in time, but I miss her already.
I miss seeing her face in the morning as she comes down the stairs, still half asleep with her cell phone in hand. How she looks around the kitchen for something to eat, and nothing appeals to her. How she quickly accepts my offer to make her something small, while she sits at the table staring into the little screen reading God knows what. I miss how she will look up and tells me the the latest news or a fascinating piece of information that she has discovered. After breakfast she would go upstairs to get ready for work. It’s doesn’t take long. She has this down to a science. Then she comes down with her bags, gets the lunch I’ve made her from the refrigerator and heads out the door to work as we exchange “I love you’s.” It’s very quiet here this morning.
The nights she would come home for dinner I would hold off dinner until she was home, even though she arrived between seven and eight. It’s much later than our usual dinner time at 5:30, but I enjoy it when we all eat together and talk about our days. She shares some funny stories from work, or rants about the things that frustrate her. We’ll watch some television together after dinner. I’ll let her pick out whatever she wants to see so she can enjoy the little time she has before bedtime. I’ll offer her favorite snacks like peaches or strawberries with whipped cream, ice cream, cheese cake, but she only says yes half the time. Mostly, she will snack on the cheese doodle snacks I keep handy because I know what she likes. And, because she has already had a very long day, she will head up to bed at 10 P.M. She’s tired. Even though I would love to spend a few more minutes with her, I don’t try to stop her. She needs her sleep. She has always needed her sleep. She got me in trouble with the nurse the day she was born because I couldn’t wake her up to feed her her bottle. I tried everything they told me. I tickled her feet, I opened the blanket so she would feel cool. Nothing worked. The nurse yelled at me saying I should have pressed the call button and asked for help. Oh well, it never occurred to me. My baby needs her sleep.
What I have been doing is a lot of reminiscing over the last 28 years. I’ve been thinking of all the joy and happiness this little sleepy baby has brought into our lives every day. How she made the most ordinary days special with her laughter. How she made us laugh from the time she uttered her first words. “I can’t eat right now, I’m calculating,” she would tell my mother as she played with the calculator at age three. At age two and a half she looked up at me in Hallmark while we were looking at pocket calendars for my brother and said, “Let’s get him a sophisticated one.” Or how at age two she would know how to appropriately insert “in my opinion” and “as a matter of fact” into our dinner conversations. We never knew what would come out of her little mouth. But we knew she was beautiful, intelligent, had a wonderful sense of humor and compassion. At seven years old she came home to find I had put new curtains on the windows. “You bought new curtains? There was nothing wrong with the old curtains.” I explain they were old and I wanted a change. “You could have given that money to the homeless. They have no place to live. We have a house and the old curtains were still good.” Even then there was no arguing with her logic, so I tried some of my own. “Okay,” I said, “Tell you what we’ll do. Instead of Christmas presents this year and more toys, we’ll give that money to the homeless.” Dead silence.
So many memories, conversations shared, even arguments. We had our first argument when she was two years old and I wanted to record her saying the alphabet, but she refused. I have that whole argument on tape, but no alphabet. I take out the camera and tell her to say the alphabet. “No.” I beg her please just sing it for me one time. “No, you sing.” I tell her that her kids will want to see it, and she’s aggravating me. “You’re aggravating me!” I tell her she is being a haunt. “You’re a haunt.” End of that argument. But there would be more arguing in our future when she hit those “terrible teens.” We hit a rough patch, but we survived. A couple of years later she actually said the words every mother longs to hear, “Can I ask your opinion about something?” I nearly fainted, my little girl had grown up!
No matter how old or wise she gets, she will always be my little girl. She will always be my sweet pea who curls her hair with her finger as she falls to sleep.