Leaving My Daughter at College
I wind the back-up clock,
a fuschia and orange travel alarm
from the era when I went to college.
Thirty minutes left
to say a lifetime of emotions.
We got the clock at a yard sale
earlier in the summer after graduation
when college still seemed a far-off dream.
Now twenty-nine minutes left.
I must settle you in the cinder-block comfort of dorm decor.
Curtain rods consume my obsessions.
My baby’s leaving home and suddenly
curtain rods take on huge significance?
till the curtains rise on your new life.
Where did we put those pillowcases?
I unwrap the new King-sized pillow,
encasing it in 300-thread-count, Egyptian-cotton tears.
to ready my shoulders to pillow silent sobs.
I go to the bathroom
where I’m greeted by signs
about what to do in case of sexual assault.
and I’m panicked you won’t be safe
won’t know what to do,
how to take care of yourself
by eating lots of colors,
ordering yourself to bed when tired,
consoling yourself when scared,
asserting your views, your wants, your needs,
finding the right friends who’ll love your wit
and nurture your mind and spirit
and tell you you’re overreacting
as the drama/trauma princess you are,
daughter of me,
to soothe and settle myself to say goodbye.
So I attend to the mundane
out of which love is constructed
as surely as any dorm bed loft.
I straighten the comforter,
shut the storage doors right,
adjust the fan,
finding last-minute advice futile,
yet trying to make up for all the words love lacks.
I finally remember the words God gave
and in the last five minutes
I bless you.
We huddle as family in prayer
and then I say the ancient words
God gave all priests
to say at times such as these:
“The Lord bless you and keep you.
May God’s face light up in delight
as the Lord looks upon you with favor
and grants you peace.”
Then I give you back to God,
and with Hannah’s broken heart
I walk away from the temple of learning
with one last view of your tearful silhouette
against the window’s light behind you
just like the first day I left you at daycare
standing on “the bridge” at the window
waving goodbye in a haze of tears
screaming in wild abandon.
“Go find the other kids and play,” I say,
seeing only my baby now--not the young woman.
But, as ever, straightening your shoulders, you do.
Then suddenly I know:
it’s ok; it's time.
© 2007, Tess Lockhart. All rights reserved.