Emptying the nest. I fought that concept tooth and nail. My strategy was to refuse to empty mine without building others. When our eldest daughter, Zoë, left home I masked my fear and insecurity around letting her go by setting her up in her little apartment with every single necessity I could get my hands on.
It was all so psychological – the building of that satellite nest, Zoë had never considered a gap year, but she was our first born, and a daughter – and I do buy into all that birth order pseudo science. But the gap had been just the ticket for Cole, son number one – so why did I hesitate to bring it up with Hudson, our second son? What unprecedented fear makes us crazy parents so darn relieved to get them back into school after one short summer between high school and post-secondary?
Hudson is a philosopher, was born a philosopher, in fact. When his kindergarten teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he said, he wanted to go inside of people. “Like a doctor?” she asked. “No,” Hudson said, staring at her through the lenses of his tiny wire rimmed glasses, “no, I want to be really small and see what it’s like inside there.” Cole once commented that when other kids got heavily into drugs in high school as an escape or dive into alternate reality, his brother Hudson, got heavy into philosophy, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, Taoism, existentialism – all the isms. So there is no question that he was a deep thinker but, he was just seventeen, I tell others now. What was I doing encouraging a seventeen-year-old boy to move away from our boisterous house to go off on his own to study? The poor kid couldn’t say, “I’m too young to do this.” Boys don’t say things like that. I should have clued in to Hudson’s reluctance by how impossibly uninterested he had been in packing for his new life style until the day before his departure.
The ‘launch’ wasn’t getting one bit easier for me. Delivering him to his tiny dorm room in Victoria, B.C. – a province, a mountain range, and a bit of ocean away from home, I was coming to grips with the idea that I was going to let another one of my kids go and was in full let-me-replace-myself-with-fuzzy-blankets-and the-right-supplies mode again. Only damn it, there wasn’t a blanket fuzzy enough.
My boy was patient with my hanging around town for a couple of days taking trips to the mall for various new nest necessities. On my last night in Victoria, after an Italian dinner downtown, I took the scenic drive along the ocean on the way back to the university, prolonging the moment that I had to leave him and overwhelmed with an urge to review all parental lessons at break neck speed. I covered; responsible drinking, meaningful relationships, and even safe sex in a couple of blocks. “They handed out condoms at orientation,” he said, cause me to shift gears, searching for a big life motto, something you would tell Oprah was the truism your mother taught you.
“Don’t be surprised if you get a low mark on your first paper,” I said instead. That happened to me a zillion years ago. I was shocked but I talked to the prof. You have to talk to the prof.”
“I don’t intend to get low marks, but I’ll do something about it if I do.” Bless him for his confidence.
I pulled up to his building and he hopped out. “I have to get my kettle from the trunk,” he said. He had recently started drinking tea.
“I have a few other things for you,” I told him. “Laundry detergent, computer paper, an extra pillow, and mugs.” … and all my needy love that was going to explode when he popped opened the trunk.
I stepped out to hug him and whispered my goodbye against his cheek, surprised again by the bristle of blonde whiskers there.
“I’ll miss you,” I said, “but I’m okay. Really I am.”
“I know,” he reassured me, walking away, with his kettle and tea, my son, the soon to be overwhelmed philosopher.