As I hugged my son before he headed back to college, I looked up and saw my neighbor from across the street with two of his young boys. Seeing them triggered a memory of us moving into the neighborhood when my son was only four and his sister not yet born. So much has happened in the time since we moved here. Now my little boy is a man, and my dream of raising beautiful children has been realized. I waved to my son as he headed away, then blinked and felt stinging in my heart.
I went inside and told myself to put on a smile and be glad he was able to visit the entire break. My practical side usually wins out, but not this time. I wondered why this good-bye felt so poignant – and came up with no explanation. After all, my son is a junior in college and has been saying good-bye between terms for 3 years now. His university is only 80 miles away; I will see him quite a few times over the next months.
I looked for comfort by reminding myself how wonderful it is that he has grown into an extraordinarily beautiful person. Then another memory flashed through my mind. Many years ago, a friend and I walked together after leaving our boys to start their first day of kindergarten. As the school doors shut behind us, my friend stopped and leaned back against the closed door. She slumped and looked out absently. “Now what?” she asked the air around us.
On that hot August day sixteen years ago, I did not share my friend’s feeling of emptiness. In fact, my reaction was the opposite. I was excited about my son starting school and looking forward to what would come next in our journey together. Now I identify with my friend much better. Today, I understand how bittersweet it can feel when some dreams come true.
One day my neighbor across the street will hug his son as he leaves home…, but today is my day. I blink a few more times and let “Now what?” float through my thoughts and feelings as I wait for what’s next on our journey.