Thirteen has been away from home a lot. Two weeks in Hattiesburg once to visit her grandma, out of state golf tournaments, two whole summers working outside of Chicago, two week-long wilderness excursions, and a trip to Atlanta for a youth conference. Now, she's in Cambodia. Freakin' Cambodia! She's been gone for a week already and won't be back until Thanksgiving. And no cell phones; that means no daily/hourly/minute by minute texts. No asking what's for dinner, or lamenting her bad hair day, or sharing an observation from AP English. Only a blog post every other day or so from Thirteen and her classmates to document their trip.
Each time she goes away, the sending off is easier. No tears this time which is weird because it was the first time dropping her off at the international terminal. (The very first time I ever dropped her off somewhere was the summer after sixth grade. A two week summer program at Stanford. I bawled all the way to the car.) I even made her brother come to the airport this time. In the past, every time I've asked him if he wanted to ride to the airport with us, he offered a disinterested, "Nah," and went back to his Xbox, or back to sleep. This time, I said, "You're coming to the airport. Your sister is going halfway around the world and won't be back for a while. You need to come see her off."
I got no argument.
Life goes on.
Last summer, for the first time, I caught myself putting things off until she came back. We missed our annual outing to Independent Shakespeare at Griffith Park, didn't go hiking, or to the beach. Pre-empty nest and pre-what are we gonna do without her? The three of us are a team, I thought. You don't go to Shakespeare, or climb mountains (okay, a rugged hill in the middle of the city) with only part of your team.
I caught myself, again, yesterday when I had this Facebook chat with an old friend.
Him: How are you?
Me: Aargh! I have cake, so it's all good. I haven't been writing.
Him: Why not?
Me: I think I've been nesting. Shorter days, a new sofa, and trying to fix up the place a little. Waiting for my chick to return to the nest.
Me: I have to stop putting things on hold when Madison is away. Soon, she'll be away away! I'll be sitting here trying to figure out what to do.
Him: You've got The PhD.
Me: Ha! As much as he's a mama's boy, he's also a teenager. When I'm in the living room, he's in his room. When I'm in my room, or out running errands, he's in the living room. He only needs me for meals and a ride to GameStop.
Him: That's your purpose in life. LOL... That's why they keep you on life support.
I laughed out loud. For real. Even sent the laughing-with-tears emoji.
Birds gotta fly. But why?!
As much as I am gratified by watching them grow and flourish and do their thing, I want to hold them close, too.
According to the blog, they've left Phnom Penh, are now in Siem Reap, and the Night Market there was awesome. Night life with neon lights, bustling crowds, exotic aromas, colorful wares. They post some pictures, but only one or two where I can see her. My heart skips a beat.
She'll be home in five days, but before I know it, she'll be off again. It's a given.
The PhD will be off, eventually, too. He'll need a little nudge, though.
I've got a nest and two little birds. And you know what? They never hesitate to remind me that it's my job to keep it cozy-- food in the fridge, dinner at a reasonable hour, clean clothes, warm cookies, a shoulder at the ready. I can do that. I accept that it's my job. Just like it's their job to fly.
Not too soon, though. Not too far, please.
But, I know. All of that. Eventually.