The days of summer slipped through my fingers like sand. It felt like a relief in June: relief that she had made it, relief that I had made it. Soon, it became mild irritation at the sight of her lounging around, making no effort to assist those of us who continued to juggle the usual daily demands.
Then it turned into low-grade panic as her move-in date loomed, and her one-way ticket to New York was purchased. I began searching the recesses of my mind to reassure myself that we had made enough memories together and that she had received enough life lessons to survive and thrive in the real world. I exhumed long-forgotten college and New York experiences, trying to imagine a day in her new life.
Author with family. (Photo credit: Randall Melvin Lim)
I dispensed pearls of wisdom at every opportunity. I suggested joint outings and meaningful bonding activities that we could still do in the remaining time. But her eyes were trained on the horizon, her thoughts were on the future, and her schedule was packed with outings that were not with me.
The internet sensed my anxiety, and my social media feeds began advising me on the 10 things I should say, or the 15 things I shouldn’t say to my college-bound child. Helpful articles gathered the 20 dorm room essentials to perfect her college life.
None of the lists could address my chief concern; this quiet, reserved child who was difficult to read even in person would now be 2,900 miles away. I decided to invest in coats (which hadn’t been useful to us in California). Coats would protect her from the slings and arrows of the world, or at least the first snow. I ordered three for good measure.
It dawned on me that I would soon have a broken set with my firstborn out of the nest — a sound without an echo, a fork without a spoon. My two children — both girls, just 22 months apart — had, in many ways, become an inseparable duo in my mind and my heart. But now, to whose banter would I listen to learn the latest school gossip? How would I probe one to get the secrets of the other? What would I do at a BOGO sale?
Eventually, the packing project and the division of property between two sisters who shared everything could not be put off any longer. After much bartering, trading, and yelling, the belongings were sorted, and next-day deliveries were ordered to fill any gaps in the now two sets of makeup and fashion accessories.
Clear-eyed and decisive, my daughter methodically packed two large bags and a roll-aboard without further ado as though she were going on a long holiday. As though she had planned the packing for a long time. Or, as though she was ready.
While packing, she sat at her desk bent over something small in her hands. I called from the hallway, curious as to what she was doing. She explained that she was finally filling her locket, which we had given her in grade school.
I had always wondered what this unsentimental and pragmatic child (who took after me) would put in there. I walked closer to examine what she was holding. It was the tiniest printout of our family photo, and she was carefully snipping its corners to make it fit.
I bit my lip and smiled.
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