“Bye Mom, I love you!”
I spit out toothpaste and shouted toward the stairs, “I love you, too, Honey,” but I was too late, he was out the door. I didn’t stop to consider that he knew I loved him and that’s why he didn’t wait for my response; I didn’t stop to think about how many times I’ve heard and said those words to a kid walking out the door; I didn’t stop for any deep thought at all, but I did stop. Something was different.
It was so quiet.
I put my toothbrush away and walked downstairs.
The TV was off.
The microwave was off.
Of course, it wasn’t completely silent — the refrigerator hummed, the air conditioner whirred, the neighborhood dogs seemed to be having a conversation — but the house was as silent as houses get.
A daytime quiet house feels different than a night time one. At night, I can feel my people there. I don’t know if it’s some sort of maternal echolocation or just a really active imagination but I’m aware of their physical presence even as they sleep.
That morning the door slam felt like a vacuum seal and the only presence left had just brushed her teeth and sent her love through a closed door.
Brian was at work.
Luke was away at college.
Noah was the one who sent the Hail Mary “I love you” over his shoulder as he left for school.
And Bekah, the kid who is usually home, or coming home within a few hours, was several states away overcoming her fear of fast amusement park rides and acquiring an “ash with dragon heartstrings core” wand.
I was alone.
More, I expected to be alone for the next eight hours.
“Big deal, Susan,” you say, and you’re right. This isn’t on the Chart of Life Big Deals at all, but it felt like a very big deal to me.
I remember vividly the first time that I was without a kid companion on a regular basis. It was in 2002 and I had dropped Luke off for his first day of preschool. I was a stay-at-home mom with a to-do list of errands but unlike every day before that, I was an unaccompanied adult.
I kicked hiney.
Kids slow you down. I’m not complaining, not whining just stating a fact. But without a kid in tow I maintained a controlled, swift pace (and completely drained a convenience store coffee). By the time I picked up Luke, I felt like I had spent the morning at a spa, not a couple of hardware stores, Target and the post office.
I’ve had time alone since then, each year I get more. It’s one of those things I would tell Susan of Little Kids: That type of herding cats chaos is temporary and you will have time alone again…eventually.
For the last two years, Bekah has been commuting to college. She’s been in and out each day so I wasn’t alone for long. But that day, that Wow the House is Silent day, she was away on the first of many trips during a semester off.
In January she’ll go away to school, too, and Noah’s daily, parting “I love you Mom” will be all I get. I’ve known that for the whole, hectic summer, heck, I’ve known it in my head for years: kids grow up, they move out and, eventually, I will be an unaccompanied adult every day.
But in the silence of that morning, for the first time, I knew it in my heart and there was no Susan of the Future to give me words of wisdom.
There was only silence, stillness and a long to-do list.
I did not kick hiney that day.