I thought it would be smooth, but there are wrinkles. And if I don’t tell you about them, then you will be alone somewhere wondering if you are the only one. You aren’t. This middle period is new. You’ve been part of a tribe for so many years. And now, as they move on to college, it feels like the sweetest bit of life passed by in the blink of an eye. But it didn’t. These were real years. Real memories. You just never had time to stop and think about it all.
Now, when you sit down with a glass of wine to read a few pages of a book before dinner it hits you that you haven’t done that in years. You’ve been busy. Happily busy. It’s just an observation. This is new.
You may find yourself on a Saturday afternoon tearing up in the dressing room at a consignment store, moved by the sweetness of the conversation between a mother and her little girl in the room next to you. You may wish you had one of your girls there to tell you how beautiful you look in the dress you are trying on. You may smile at that mother while you wait in line and say ‘she is so sweet,’ and wonder if she can see the nostalgia in your eyes.
On occasion, you may set the table for five when there are only four at home. You will shake your head. How did I do that? It is normal. You did that every day for 18 years. And then you will set it for four when there are only three at home. And you will know that it won’t be long before you are setting the table for two, and you will get a lump in your throat.
You may cling on to your husband at night. Squeezing his hand tightly. He won’t know that a tear streams down your face. This letting go isn’t easy. You wonder what it feels like for him, but you don’t talk about it. He holds your hand just as tightly. You already know.
The dog will get walked more often and you may realize that when your last child goes away to college, your dog will be winding down, and you will picture yourself walking alone in the woods. You think that picturing these things might help you when the time comes. But it won’t. The truth is nothing does. Moments must be lived when they happen. And you will find a way, because you always have, to adjust the sails when that time comes.
This middle period feels a lot like looking back. But you also look forward. You look forward to hearing about their new adventures and making some of your own. You look forward to seeing how they use their gifts to make the world a better place. You think about how they are the gift you gave the world.
You thought it would be smooth, but how could it be? You have loved deeply. You still do. There are wrinkles. Creases where love seeps in and stays.
Erin Frankel is a published children’s author. She has written four picture books on bullying: Weird!, Dare!, Tough! and Nobody! In her free time, you’ll find Erin hiking in the woods with her doggie and getting words down on paper whenever she can. You can read more about Erin’s books and writing at www.theweirdseries.com