“True navigation begins in the human heart. It’s the most important map of all.”
Elizabeth Kapu’uwailani Lindsey
For those of you who have college aged kids you know how crazy August can be…packing up, deciding what stays and what goes and then heading out to move our babies back to their dorms, apartments or houses. For the past two years I’ve had the joy and luxury of both my children attending the same university and on so many levels this scenario was perfection. Knowing they had each other in a city 420 miles from home was comforting. Knowing they would both greet us when we reached the campus was a rush. Sharing the same school breaks made family holiday planning effortless these past two years.
This year my oldest embarked on her graduate career and now resides in a new city, at the end of a different highway taking her not only to greater academic heights but 362 miles in another direction from her brother and 374 miles, in the opposite direction, from us. The reality of this new living situation hit me when driving our son to Columbus this past weekend. The route to both Knoxville and Columbus begin the same but approximately 60 miles into the drive there comes the point where I must exit 81S and head north-west beginning the trek to Columbus. At this juncture I was hit with an unexpected wave of emotion; just days before we made the 81S journey to Knoxville and knowing my daughter was at the end of this south-west route brought me to tears.
This is truly the first time my kids are separated and although I doubt it is no big deal to them, I am crestfallen.
The first two years my daughter was away at college was somehow different; her younger brother still was home with us and walked the high school halls filled with his sister’s spirit. Now our family is spread across three different states each of us anchoring a geographic triangle of sorts. I realize this is insight into what the future holds. No, that is naivety talking. This IS our future, our now. Our family dynamic is changing as my kids’ individual lives take off and they each explore their goals and dreams. I’ve encouraged and supported their aspirations all along the way but as I stand upon the precipice of their flight, the magnitude of reality is staring back at me. I imagine all moms feel this pull as our maternal compasses go awry when our babies scatter. I am no different and as I attempt to re-calibrate my heart I continue celebrating their individual academic and emotional achievements.
It’s a mixed bag we mothers fill driving the parental highway. Peering into mine I see happiness, pride, sadness, regret, love…happiness for the many memories we created as a family, pride for the greatness my kids have and will achieve, sadness for any childhood moment not captured and now forever lost, regret for not writing down the many funny sayings our kids expressed at some point in the growing up years and love for all of the hugs and kisses this mother received over the years.
It seems just yesterday I could look in the rear view mirror and see my babies looking back at me but today I see an empty seat filled with terrific memories and thought provoking conversations. I wonder do they, too, have an internal compass that is undergoing the same re-calibration as mine and will theirs ever again settle on an emotional ‘due north’ that points towards home?