Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sending them away

Here we come...
Every once in awhile, at regular intervals actually, I am ashamed to say, I bedevil my daughters with the refrain, “Did we do the right thing by sending you away at seventeen?” All credit to them that they do not remind the mother how consistently we worked towards this event.

For the most part, it is all good. But there are these periodic attacks of anxiety, self-doubt and uncertainty. The little snakes that slither in: will this experience of leaving home make them cynical; what kind of influences are they under, being well out of our reach now; has their going away loosened the family fabric; who is knocking whom up, them or the world?

That daily happening during which all of this comes into play is the telephone call. It is never a simple, comfortable, confident welfare call it should be. I dial the number and wait in a cloud of anticipatory flutter. There is relief if the call is picked up. A missed call is cause for further palpitation and hyperventilation. Is everything all right? Where is she?

The click and voice at the other end send my maternal antenna into overdrive. I strain to pick up the channels in their voices, trying to decipher the tenor, the timber, the tremulous. If they sound sleepy I wonder if they are depressed and miserable and in the process of sleeping it off. If they sound like they are whispering, I run down a mental checklist of who they might be with. The sound of wheels conjures up images of horrifying traffic. The slightest cough, wheeze or sniffle immediately portends an impending medical catastrophe.

A lilt in their voices on the other hand, sends the blood coursing through my veins with happiness. Their laughter can keep us going for weeks. Every little experience shared is recounted to grandparents and family over and over. It is as though, no one ever left home for college before.

There are the memorable calls, “Mom, I won such and such,” or “Mom, I missed my flight,” or “Mom, I danced at 6 am on a Serbian Hill”, or “Mom, great street food in Taipei,” or “Driving home from Macedonia,” or “Lovely ride on the airport highway”. And of course, there are the standard exchanges, “I am withdrawing money”; “No charge in phone,”; “A trip going out, can I?”; “Have taken my medicine”; “I am up.”

The mind carries out crazy orbits. Are they hurting? Are they leaning too much on someone? Are they stumped for ideas? Are they safe? Are they lonely? Am I calling too much or too little or just enough? I don’t want to intrude or to bug but I am certainly looking for reassurance.

And should the father have placed the call, my first question, “Did she sound ok?” Of course they are ok. They have their schedules, their environment, and their pressures to handle. They are busy being what we wanted them to be all along...autonomous, independent, well functioning adults.

Keep it up girls!

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