Letting Her Go

I am suffering separation anxiety with Cierra leaving again already. Our daughter who has traveled through many countries now carries the signature of those places, of those people, no longer the shy child of ours that she once was. I step into her room and turn around slowly and wonder who is this incredible woman who has parked her belongings, backpack, bags, photos of the Mediterranean and beautiful dark skinned people from far away places, hiking shoes, a shawl from Turkey, here in our house–in this bedroom–before racing back out the door on a quick trip to hang with friends and her brother on the west coast? Seeing her things here again without her physical presence seems like housing a stranger. I don’t want her things; I want her.

I love her voice, her laugh, her wry humor in random acts of silliness, her tenderness toward others who are displaced from their homeland. How comforting is the simple act of meeting over at Coldsmoke Coffeehouse while she grades MSU student papers and I write. We connect easily on most everything, yes, even with all the miles traveled. I listen enthralled at the texture and depth and width of her perspective. I want to memorize her anger about organizational power and lack of patience with injustice. I admire the way her mind works, and I wish she wouldn’t work so hard or be so exhausted. 

No one explained how seeing an adult daughter stretched across my bed while talking with a friend on the phone, or wrapped up in a blanket watching a movie or sharing a book, or music video, or merely recounting with me about her day would bring such satisfaction. Being able to touch her, to run my hands through her dark hair is a balm to my mother ache that abates with time, but otherwise never quite heals.

Cooking with Sis in the kitchen is pure delight, recipes she’s learned in countries around the world. The dinner table is odd though. Being three of us and not four (#wearethewallaces)–Dad, Mom, Cierra without Spencer–feels like a leg of the table is missing. I keep looking around for our son, waiting for him to walk in the door. We feel out of kilter. Cierra was eager to hop back on a plane once she was state side to go be with him.

O God, I don’t know if I can open my heart all the way this time. Now I’m sobbing from the blurry edges of grief and ambiguous loss for this beautiful person who loves those I love, and treasures what I treasure… but I know this is only a fraction of what she loves and treasures. Her world and people reach far beyond my own. She is my friend, but I cannot hold her. I cannot know all of her.

I didn’t want to let her go again…not so soon. We have so little time. We taught our kids to fly and they flew far! How do I bridge this next chapter when all I want is to live closer, to share their world…and not by video conference, or if I’m lucky with Spenc, a few lines of text! I have to trust God’s love to be enough for them, and for me.

I do not cry when I say goodbye to our kids. I promise to hold on loosely without letting go. Their dreams are mine, and the world comes to me through them. What would I do without prayer? The only sharp edge threatening this mystical thread is a secret hate I’ve begun to harbor for mothers who get to travel with their kids. And there’s that low level of resentment growing toward mothers whose kids remain close enough for visits. I’ll let that go too.

When Cierra returns from her short US trip, we’ll talk about profs and her visit to our alma mater… we’ll share stories of our shared experiences in that common world, pushing back for a moment the other–the big one with oceans and continents, borders and fast trains, foreign currencies and cultures and languages–to which I am still a stranger. As I should be.

Someday, I’ll visit her in Italy and Spain, Croatia, Turkey, Brazil, Argentina… We’ll reminisce with great affection those lovely places and people too. But for today, I will let her go. But first I’m gonna sit on the edge of her bed and cry openly while holding her backpack to my chest as if it was my baby.