I wake snuggled in a cozy tangle of fleece and down with my cat’s warmth pressing against my side. The radiators softly tick-tick-tick and in the distance the tires of a passing car hum on pavement. A typical start to the day, but the house feels foreign this morning, operating on a different frequency.
Over the past two weeks my children have returned to their rich, busy lives: Adeline heading off to England for six months of study, Connor returning to his final semester at college, and Lydia safely ensconced in her dorm again late yesterday afternoon. Our old house sighs and settles in the cold morning and so do I. My thoughts wing outward to linger gently, like a blessing, on each of my children.
Over the years at times of parting I’ve learned to speak a sort of code to my kids, encapsulating vast emotions in catchphrases like “Drive safely” and “Make good choices.” At times they roll their eyes affectionately when I repeat these phrases, and they have become a bit of a household joke. But to me, these phrases are mantras, heartfelt repeated prayers. They are shorthand for “I love you and when you go out and about in this world, I’m proud and excited and so, so vulnerable. For you are my heart. So be careful and be kind and live your life to the fullest. Oh, and have fun but don’t be stupid. You are not invulnerable and you have enriched my life and simultaneously sent it careening wildly out of my control. So, please, please remember I love you and always will and sending you off with a smile on my face is a huge act of trust and faith in both you and the universe.”
And this morning as I lie in my warm, soft bed, in the newness of their absence, my thoughts touch on each of them in turn, envisioning them where they might be…missing them, loving them, hoping against hope that this morning ritual, this mental caress, will keep them safe in this wild, wonderful, unruly world. And softly, like a prayer, I think, “Drive safely. Make good choices.”