It is so quiet. I look around at all the things in the exact same place I left them last night. Nothing is missing from my medicine cabinet, from my bedside table, from my closet. There are no shoes, clothes, or dishes strewn around the room.
Sometimes I forget and think she’s just sleeping in the next room. Sleeping well into the afternoon, like she used to, until I would go stir her awake with a squish or the cat or toasting waffles.
Sometimes it feels like she’s gone for good. Like she has died. And I have to squeeze my arms around my body and tell myself: No, god forbid. She is just gone into her own cave for a time.
I’ve heard the term empty nest for years, and it never really meant much to me. I always thought, if I ever get to the point when she’s ready to leave home, I will be happy in the thought that I did my job, and that she has launched successfully—whatever that means. Hopefully it will mean that she has finally finished school, and we will celebrate!
What I didn’t realize is that after the graduation and celebration and milestone after exciting milestone, it would creep up on me slowly and silently: while folding laundry and realizing it is only my clothes; while washing the dishes only I used; while wandering alone around Marshall’s and wondering why it’s no longer fun to poke through the endless knickknacks; while trying to sleep but waking continually with a void deep inside my body as if I’m missing her presence in my womb.
The feeling is indescribable. It’s the first time you realize deep in your gut how attached you have been to your child; how much of your life has been devoted to bringing her into the world and introducing each to the other; how unsure you are of who you are without her there, inside the nest, pressing up against and under your body.
From the outside, this may seem to some like a desperate dependence or unhealthy reliance. But the feelings I am having—as I sit here looking out the window from this new home I recently acquired to share with my daughter—are feelings of pure love; deep knowledge that I have grown so close to another being that I can feel the body of her absence beside me, against me, within me. And it is a feeling of profound gratitude. Because I know real love is laced with melancholy—with the awareness, but also the transcendence, of the fleeting of time. And because I know she feels the same; I know she carries my presence in and beside and around her every day. We are forever connected. And nothing can ever change that; no one can ever take that away.