I can hardly believe the title of this post, the truth and heft of just three small words, the fact that they actually apply to me in just a few more hours.

My youngest, Abby Evangeline, leaves for college today.

In just a few more hours we will pack up my car and her dad’s truck. She’ll ride with me as we caravan north to Seattle and arrive at her dorm at least 15 minutes before her assigned move-in time. “I want to be early, mom.”

I will help her carry pillows and rugs and a duvet cover and matching sheets and an adorable ottoman that doubles for storage and a mini-fridge and an over-the-door mirror and boxes and boxes of toiletries/supplies and boxes and boxes of clothes and even more.

I will carry my heart – tenderly, gingery, gently – because I know the smallest stumble, the tiniest tumble, will cause it to break.

And I will shelter hers – because I still can – for just a few more hours.

She’s ready. It’s time. She knows it – despite her understandable and allowed fears, uncertainty, and edge-of-sadness.

I’m ready, too. It’s time.

But still…

How can one ever really be ready for this?

What guidebook or manual exists to walk me through even these next few hours –  not to mention days, weeks, months, and years?

There is no such thing. Instead, I will listen to my barely-beating heart as it catches at her smallest sigh. I will trust my shaking hands to wipe away both of our tears. I will watch my now slightly-more frail body get back in the car and drive “home” to the nest that awaits. Leaves. Sticks. Twigs. Feathers. Bits of string. And empty; both birds now flown.

I will circle, circle, circle…not ready to land.

Abby has no guidebook or manual either, but her heart beats strong and fierce even as she tentatively steps, tentatively leans forward, tentatively lets go…and flies. As she must. As she can.

Of this I am certain: she will land.

But me? How? And where, exactly? Must I? Can I? Will I?

I’m less certain.

 

The lines from one of my favorite children’s books, read more times than I can count, circles, circles, circles in my mind:

She was almost too sleepy to think any more. Then she looked beyond the thorn bushes, out into the big dark night. Nothing could be further than the sky.

“I love you right up to the MOON,” she said, and closed her eyes.

“Oh, that’s far,” said Big Nutbrown Hare. “That is very, very far.”

Big Nutbrown Hare settled Little Nutbrown Hare into her bed of leaves. She leaned over and kissed her good night.

Then she lay down close by and whispered with a smile, “I love you right up to the moon – AND BACK.” (All pronouns admittedly changed…)

She feels almost that far away already…the moon…and we haven’t yet left this bed of leaves. Just a few more hours…

 

I expect to dream of flying tonight. Of this I am certain: it’s a long way to the moon and back. And it is there that I will go, for now. Until I am ready to return. Until I can land-and-stay in this empty nest. Until my heart is yet-again steadied by the joy, elation, and infinite-and-endless gratitude I feel for all she’s been, all she is, all she’s yet to be.

Of this I am certain: in just a few more hours I won’t be able to lean over and kiss her goodnight. Instead, I will hope that she looks up, sees the moon from her brand new (and far-from-empty) nest, catches a glimpse of me as I circle, circle, circle, and hears me whisper with a smile, “I love you, sweet girl. Always. Now soar!”