There are boxes, bags, totes, crates and drawers piled in my living room, garage, and by the front door.
The Princess is moving to college.
I can see the top of her dresser. She has a dresser? Why were her clothes always on the floor? I can see the floor in her room. She has carpet?
I knew this day was coming, obviously. But it seemed so far off.
I blinked, and it was here.
She hasn't asked me for help and I haven't offered. I did not want to intrude, to boss. Something told me this was something she needed to do for herself.
So when she packs the ridiculously high, sparkly prom-dress heels, I don't say anything. I raise an eyebrow, because, really? But I don't say anything.
I figure this is part of her journey. We all have to learn that less is more, or so I've been told. Not that I believe it, either. This is something she needs to do, something she needs to learn.
I am so proud. And slightly annoyed. She could call to get the utilities for the apartment hooked up, but still needs me to make her dentist and hair appointments?
Distracted by the growing, and well organized piles, I gave her the puppy dog face once today. I let the mask fall, let my bottom lip stick out, let my eyes grow wide, just long enough to see that flash of recognition on her face. I quickly stuck my tongue out and crossed my eyes. Just kidding, I pretend. I turn away, close my eyes, and take a deep breath. I do that a lot.
I remember my mom sending me to college (pre-texting), sending me to grad school five hours away (for a short time). She wanted me to stretch my wings, to soar, but was there to welcome me back. I miss her. I miss her as much as I want The Princess and The Prince to go, to find themselves, to stretch, to soar, to fly.
I love them.
The Princess is moving only 30 minutes away. But she's no longer right down the hall. She's no longer right around the corner.
She's been to camps, conferences, and retreats.
Why is this different?
A friend who has successfully fledged four children admitted to being misty eyed after dropping off her daughter – the youngest and her only little girl – at college. And she admits to feeling a bit silly, knowing she was only 15 minutes away.
It's not the mileage, it's the symbolism, I think.
This is what we've raised them to do, my friend tells me. Other Moms – Moms with fledglings and near fledglings and hatchlings and grand-hatchlings – repeat the sentiment.
This is what we've prepared them for.
But who prepares us?
The Prince, as if by unspoken understanding (then again, siblings share without speaking), has rediscovered a tolerance for my presence. (Moms being the un-coolest of the un-cool when it comes to teenage boys asserting their independence, even more so than for teenage girls.) He lets me take him to McDonald's, lets me pay (OK, that part's not new), and even lets me sit with him – in public – and talks to me – in public. Although not when his friends are around.
He helps me move the final truck-load, despite initial resistance. He arranges the load, relishing the role of Man of the House, using half a roll of duct tape to secure a garbagebag-covered laundrybag, full of clothes. He smiles and shrugs, knowing I will laugh.
He is in charge of F-I-S-H Homie Quan the Second, so named because we didn't want to tip off the C-A-T, who, as it turns out couldn't care less. The Prince takes his job very seriously, transferring F-I-S-H to the transport cup and holding F-I-S-H's temporary home during the move.
He has looked forward to this day; looked forward to expanding into her room or at least to the end of her encroaching on his already miniscule room. No more crap piled in his doorway – although I leave one slim box destined for recycling. Just because.
The Princess has been his tormentor, his ally, and most importantly, the one to share and deflect parental attention. The Princess enjoyed three years as an only child, now it's his turn to take center stage.
He rolls his eyes. No. He does not want an F-I-S-H. The C-A-T, which his sister lobbied so hard for, is responsibility enough
Tonight, the piles have been moved. The last I saw them, they filled a new room. I took a long look at the carpet, knowing it would be the last time I saw it so clearly.
The house seems quiet and empty – not just because The Prince is at band camp and The King is away on business.
The cat prowls restlessly. His favorite hiding place – under The Princess' bed – is gone. He has been a fixture in her room these last few weeks. Whether that was because of the construction going on downstairs, or because he sensed a change, a need, is unclear. He is on the stairs now, watching the door. Waiting for someone.
When we left, the girls were laughing, struggling to hook up the Wi-Fi, meeting their neighbors, making plans for tonight.
The Prince and I ate a late lunch, talking Olympics and music and motorcycles and cars.
This is what we've prepared them for.
This is what they've prepared us for.