This weekend I drove almost eight hours down 95 to help move my baby boy into his first real apartment. He has an internship (paid!) in North Carolina and won’t be home for the summer, and probably never again for any significant amount of time. His childhood home is now for visiting, not for living in.
To me, motherhood and driving are inseparable. From the time I brought babies home from the hospital, it’s been a gradual process of getting into the car and taking them further and further from home. Remember when just getting them in the car seat and to the grocery was a small victory? In a blink of an eye it was time to drive them to preschool. My six-foot, four-inch son who now travels all the time for work with nary a “Bye, Mom” had to be pried off my leg, shrieking.
After preschool, my in-car incarceration increased exponentially. School, sports, camps–and those glorious years when, because of sports and school schedules and traffic, the baby boy had to do his homework in the car, waiting or running errands for almost two hours after he got out of school. And don’t get me started on the fights over riding shotgun. I believe I lost two years of my life and a good part of my sanity in a 1999 Volvo wagon. Even once they could drive themselves there was still driving–to overnight camps, on college visits and then, those drives to drop them off at college.
This trip felt different. Every other drive, even those to college drop-offs and graduations, resulted in predictable emotions, probably because they were predictable events, ones I had on my physical and emotional calendar. I hadn’t expected the baby boy to be working so far away from home so soon, after just two years of college, though I’m thrilled with his opportunity. This trip, instead of taking him around, I found myself driving on my own, buying him groceries and basics to outfit his apartment, while he drove the six hour round trip back to school to finish cleaning out his dorm room. Instead of driving him further from home, he was home, and I was just there to visit.
My mother always says she had my father stop for a six-pack at the 7-11 after they dropped me off in Charlottesville. I’m pretty sure she was joking, but I wouldn’t put it past her. I was an only child, so her nest emptied suddenly. I, too, wanted to drink after college drop-offs, but for hubby and me it was more like cracking open champagne and high-fiving each other. It’s not that we didn’t miss them (a little), it’s that they all landed where they belonged and they were doing what they needed to do. My dear friend who also embraced the empty nest without tears claims that, because we are only children, she and I understand, and therefore encourage, independence. It’s as good an explanation as any, I suppose.
So it surprised me how I felt this morning as I left. I rose early to try to get a jump on traffic and as I passed the exit for his new apartment, I felt a pang and I teared up. One small part of me wanted to be that somewhat creepy mom from Love You Forever sneaking into her grown son’s room as an elderly woman and rocking him. (Way to win “Psycho Mother-in-Law of the Year” award, FYI.) I felt an almost visceral attraction towards that exit.
Why this rather out-of-character thought? Because he’s the baby? Because he’s on his own in a town where he doesn’t know a soul? Or maybe just because I’m just so proud and excited about his journey that I just want to make really, really, sure he knows? I don’t know. I’ll ponder that on the drive home.