Losing my familiar

empty nestWhat is it about 3:30 in the morning?

Is it me or do others find themselves wide-eyed at the wrong time too?

Last night I woke in an unfamiliar place. (Inside and out.)

There I was, in someone else’s home, in some else’s bed, in someone else’s suburban neighborhood, outside of someone else’s city… only it was my son’s city now too.

We were there for parent weekend; we had been thrilled to come; THRILLED; but after we dropped my son back at the dorms that first night, everything felt wrong.

At 3:45 am, I ached for my own bed, in my own home, on my own dirt road, in my own rural community 200 miles away; but in the dark of the night I realized that it had become a stranger too.

My entire life had.

At 4:00 am, I considered re-arranging my bedroom once home so that my bed was facing south again; but even in my imagination, I knew it wouldn’t be enough.

I had lost my familiar.

There is something to mothering that steeps one in the familiar, in home, in the timelessness of connection and belonging.

As a child myself, I moved more than a dozen times so I never fully experienced this deep hold until my body became my baby’s.

Once he was beside me, I no longer relied on the company of my blankie which traveled across the country, and the sea, to be my home.

At 4:20 am, I considered the stretch of life ahead of me–without my son–and decided that it might be time to bring my blankie back to bed.

(ps. it’s actually 2 blankies and a stuffed puppy)

(And here’s a tune for all those seeking “home”

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Wild Inside


Parenting… Carousel or Roller Coaster? (photo: Scott Campbell)

Remember when you’d trip over yourselves
to be the first one up the stairs
to see the baby’s face
when she woke?

Or years later,
on pick up day
at overnight camp
when you and your husband
shoved each other out of the way?

Tomorrow is a day like that.

It’s been 6 weeks
since we left our son
at college.

On that day, we played it cool.

But tomorrow,
No way.

I want to be the first one to feel his skin against mine,
and I don’t care if I look foolish.

This is how it is.

So many hours,
of so many days,
over so many weeks,
through so many months,
of count-ed years,
in abject Mundanity…


The missing limb

1187287_10151818827533746_1766580072_nI’m not a sailor or a swimmer, but I love being beside the water.

While my husband and our second son gallivant around town, I retreat to a quiet table on a floating dock.

I order a glass of Chardonnay and coconut shrimp and set to scribbling notes to myself on a piece of scrap paper procured at the desk of the marina.

The sun is high above my umbrella, the day is crystal clear, and the mountain ranges across the great expanse of Lake Champlain are a sea of waves unto themselves.

This is perfect therapy for saying goodbye to a son; better than all those last minute searches at Wal-mart and Home Depot and Bed, Bath & Beyond with the throngs of other parents of college freshmen.

I decide that before we leave Burlington–and our first born, we will take the Lake Champlain Chocolate Factory tour.

A thin, blue dragonfly lands on my table and reminds me of my calling. I fold the piece of paper once, and then again, so that there are 4 boxes into which I can, somewhat privately, collect my emerging thoughts.

I’m interested in how the body has its own response to goodbye…

When I have filled an entire side of the sheet, I unfold it and flip it to the opposite side, folding it up once more. I ask the waitress for a glass of water. I scoop out some of the ice and drop it into my wine. I am feeling almost buoyant.

And then I hear: “I think we should move here, Dad.”

I look up to see a boy about the age of my second son, 13, standing beside his father who has stepped up to the bar. I recognize the longing in the boy’s voice. I’ve heard in my husband’s voice today as he raves about the Champlain Valley, as if to say the same: “Let’s move here.”

I can’t hear the father’s response, but I sense it in the reflection of his wife’s face as she approaches them. She is beautiful, but sad, hollowed even. She smiles wistfully at her husband and brushes her hand against his cheek while he leans over to kiss his tall son on the forehead. From behind, a small girl with long brown curls wraps her arms around her father’s waist and rests her head against his back.

I wipe tears from my folded paper as this family limps away.