I’ve been thinking a lot about something lately and asking myself one question. And that question is:
“What the hell was my mother thinking?!?”
Let me back up.
The last couple of months have been filled with a flurry of preparations for us because Winona is leaving tomorrow for two months.
Holy crap, how did this happen?
It’s not like it took me by surprise…it didn’t. I was involved in the decisions and plans every step of the way. She’s interning at the Guiding Eyes for the Blind Training School in Yorktown Heights, NY - about an hour north of Manhattan. She’ll be living on her own (though not alone), thus all our preparations.
Some things are easy to plan and prepare for - debit card for her bank account? Check. Maintenance and oil change on her car? Check. AAA coverage? Check. Health insurance card? Check. Plenty of warm clothes? Check. Dog food? Check.
Reconciling my genuine excitement and anticipation for her with my “oh-my-god-what-did-I-agree-too” mama heart is proving to be a more difficult item to check off the list, though.
In some ways, it’s silly, I think to myself. I’ll be with her for several days to help her settle in, grocery shop, and get her bearings in her new surroundings. And once I head back home to Virginia, she can call, email or text as much as she needs or wants to (which will be far less than I need or want her to, of this I am certain). And in a pinch I could always call the house where she’s staying or the kennel where she’s working. We will be far apart by geography but close by technology.
And it’s not even that far apart, when I stop to think about it.
See, when I was her age I wanted to go to Poland. This was back in practically the dark ages when Poland was not an easy place to visit because it was under Socialist rule. It took a fair amount of finagling to make that trip come to fruition, but with the help of a beloved high school teacher, a friend and I made it work. We flew into Warsaw, spent a week hanging around the city, then took a train to Krakow to study at the university for a couple of months (because it wasn’t possible at the time to visit Poland as merely a tourist).
All my mother heard from me was a telegram letting her know that I’d arrived safely (ohmygod owning up to the fact that I’ve sent a telegram in my lifetime makes me feel at least a hundred years old). That was it, save for the one brief phone call we had on my eighteenth birthday, which I received at the main desk of the building I lived in. Otherwise my friend and I, along with new friends we met, romped around Poland for a few months, venturing to new cities on weekends and exploring everything we could when we weren’t in class.
And we were fine.
But even still, today, as I prepare myself emotionally for leaving my 17-year-old daughter alone four states away, I find myself wondering what went through my mother’s head way back when I told her I wanted to go to Poland. Did she feel that empty, sinking, gnawing feeling of anxiety in the pit of her stomach too, once I’d raised all the money and booked my plane tickets?
I’m sure she did.
But really, what the hell was she thinking?!? I was half a world away and very young.
I guess she was thinking that it would be good for me, so she squelched that empty, sinking, gnawing feeling of anxiety in the pit of her stomach, just like I’m doing now.
And I can’t thank her enough for her grace and support, because it really was good for me in ways I’m still very grateful for today. Just as I think this will be the same for my own daughter.
In a fitting twist, Winona will celebrate her eighteenth birthday while away on her adventure, just as I did. Except her day will be marked by texts, phone calls, e-cards, and probably more (though no telegrams, for sure). My how things have changed.
And my oh my, how some things never really change, do they?
Wish me luck.