When Alec left on April 30th, a piece of me went with him. The unexpected torrent of tears shocked me. He’s been going to sleepaway camp for six years hundreds of miles away. I always miss my kids when they’re not with me, but this was vastly different. As we hugged at 5:30 am, my eyes filled with unexpected, intense emotions.
He was leaving the country for a two-week school trip. Although my teens have seen me sad, I consciously never cry in front of them when we part. I don’t want them to ever feel guilt or apprehension about embarking on an independent life experience.
As I held Alec close, my damp cheeks came in contact with his. “Mom, oh my gosh, are you crying?” I sniffed silently and attempted to lie, which I rarely do and clearly not well. “No, no sweetie. I am ok. You’re going to have an incredible trip! I am so excited for you.”
He said, “I know you are sad. I feel so bad! This will be good practice for when I go to college.” Although I made an attempt, I could not utter another word. After one more quick embrace, Alec left my room. I crawled back into my bed and wailed.
The dam broke. A river of apparently stifled emotions poured from my heart and onto the pillow. I lost track of time. I let myself feel deeply. It really hurt.
Then I got a text from the school stating, “We are taking off now.” Again I bawled. This was the third time in 24 hours (I had a private, mini-meltdown the night before he departed.) At this point, I was talking to myself aloud. I could not get a grip. It was perplexing, especially for a mother who has separated several times from her children.
It’s been an introspective 14 days (I could also tell you the minutes but I will refrain! It’s not like I was counting or anything.). I had many realizations, and while Alec expanded his life experiences, I grew as a mommy. I realized him traveling and flying several hours overseas is what unraveled me. Once he landed, I exhaled so deeply I became woozy.
I looked forward to photos and updates. And I was beyond happy for him to have this incredible bonding time with his school friends. He was having a blast and learning along the way. I thought the waters had dissipated. But then Mother’s Day arrived.
For the umpteenth time, I was rocked by my reaction. I knew Mother’s Day may bring some undercurrents of unease and sadness for reasons unrelated to Alec’s absence. My husband and Zoe snuggled with me, gave me beautiful cards and gifts.
I told them weeks ago I did not want nor need a thing other than their love. They clearly didn’t listen! I am grateful for the practical and thoughtful gifts but the hugs and homemade dinner touched me the most.
After my initial delight, a large lump suddenly lodged in my throat. Oh my gosh, here we go, again. I snuck into the bathroom seconds before my eyes became misty. My husband and Zoe were waiting for me in the car and texting, “Where are you—hurry up!”
We were supposed to already be en route to a friend’s brunch. Their son had his bar mitzvah the day before. I talked to myself once again and knew I must swallow my sadness. I wanted to focus on celebrating our friends and their beautiful family. It was tough because I know Zoe sensed my swirly emotions. I doubted the sunglasses I wore hid the pools in my eyes.
One saving grace was the mascara I’d applied an hour before. I never thought I’d thank an inanimate bottle of black goop! I am going to now! I figured I better save the sorrow because if I released it now, we may arrive even later to our friend’s home. Removing runaway mascara streaks would be a slow process. And that would not be ok—I felt badly enough that my family was waiting in the car as I tried to quickly to compose myself.
My daughter and I shopped later that afternoon for matching rings. I wanted to celebrate her precious presence in my life. We found golden bands that reminded me of her sparkly, sunny personality. For a few hours, my spirit lifted as I inhaled gratitude for the incredible mother/daughter relationship we have.
When we got home, I tried to write. Instead of words flowing, the tears resurfaced and cascaded from my eyes. This was the first Mother’s Day without Alec. He had called me and brightened my mood. I lit up when I heard his voice that sounded so near yet he was far.
I tried to hold the light for the rest of the day but could not. I knew he was coming home this morning so I was surprised that the stream trickled again! And as the salt cleansed my eyes and soul, several more epiphanies ensued.
The sorrow engulfing me wasn’t only about my first born. In my opinion, Mother’s Day is really just a Hallmark holiday. I absolutely relish and cherish this special day. However, I also feel all mothers—traditional, non-traditional, fur mommies, aunts, and role models/mother figures, and all souls who “mother”—ought to be celebrated the other 364 days of the year, too.
But today, which is why this blog is late, I awoke with exhuberance. Actually, I only slept about two hours, so perhaps that’s an inaccurate phrase? I tossed and turned in bed like a 6-year-old buzzing with excitement before the first day of school.
The text I’d been awaiting appeared on my phone at about 7:15 a.m. “I landed!” Exhaustion from several sleep-deprived nights turned into renewed energy. It felt like a strong shot of espresso! I could not wait to see my boy. Adrenaline boosted me from the bed, and I bolted to the shower.
I eagerly pulled into the school parking lot. Alec stepped off the bus with a beaming grin, and I swear he seemed a few inches taller. I had yet another realization as I reached upward to hug him. Sprouting facial hair, strong arms, and radiant confidence were just a few outward indicators that my baby is growing up.
Today I did not feel sad. Today pride replaced pain. Today I celebrated Mother’s Day again with my smart, kind, and witty son who is rapidly developing into a self-assured, incredible young adult. After eating a snack, we sat on the couch, and Alec showed me fabulous pictures. I asked him about each one, and we connected while I listened to stories about his trip. Our time together filled my being—it’s an honor and eternal gift to be his mother.
I chose not to publish what I wrote yesterday. It just did not feel right no matter how hard I tweaked the message. And now I know why—the piece that was missing is back. My family of four (six including my pups) is complete. Mothering is a privilege and lifetime gift. I am forever grateful for it all. I will be smiling tonight while I finally sleep.