The decision defied every bone in my body. It broke my heart, just as his return to the city had, just as his leaving always does.
Maybe it’s a mom thing but saying good-bye to our kids has always demolished me. My husband doesn’t get it. But then, he didn’t carry them. That first biological connection never ends. Just as my body expanded to make room for our daughter, and two years later, our son, I become expectant with excitement whenever they visit. And when they leave, as in the weeks after childbirth, I sink.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot to like about an empty nest, like order and cleanliness, and food not flying out of the refrigerator. Plus, there’s the second honeymoon. Still, the house is so quiet. Most of the time I like it, since I work here, and since the lockdown, so does my husband. But there are days, for me at least, when the silence gets too loud.
How I craved silence when the kids were young, especially during their angsty, combative adolescence. On really tough days, I counted the months until they graduated high school and moved out. “You’re going to really miss them when they go,” my husband would say. Then they did. The day we dropped our daughter at college, I felt like I’d lost a limb and burst into tears right in the middle of Starbucks. Two years later, when our son followed, I crumbled all over again.
Funny: we raise kids to live on their own but when that day comes, we don’t want them to go. Maybe that’s because we realize that once they’re gone, we can’t keep them safe; not that we could ever fully protect them from all the craziness in the world.
At least while they were young, I could keep them relatively healthy; although, I never bothered to protect them against my germs. After all, my blood had been their blood, and my immune system, theirs. They were of me. How mindlessly I licked their melting ice cream cones and fallen lollipops. Even when they were sick, especially when they were sick, I held them close. Now, we can’t even touch.
When the pandemic began, I didn’t absorb its gravity. It was just too surreal. Still, we self-quarantined. Then the death tolls started to spiral. We were so relieved to have our boy home safely that we didn’t last long with the six-feet-apart bit. After about a week, he said, “Mom, I gotta give you a hug.” Foolish or not, it felt good.
We’d hoped he would stay until the curve flattened. In fact, we begged him not to leave. We said social distancing would be much harder in the City, with so many people sharing the sidewalks, than it is in our small village. But, like his older sister who is sheltering Upstate, he wanted some semblance of his life back.
Before he takes the car, we chat, six feet apart. I miss his sweet face, now hidden by a black mask. Then, I toss him the keys, feeling grateful for having hugged him hard weeks ago, not knowing when I’d be able to do that again.
Andrea Kott is the author of “Salt on a Robin’s Tail: An Unlikely Jewish Journey Through Childhood, Forgiveness and Hope,” (Blydyn Square Books), now available on Amazon.