When a solo trip calls a mother away from her children, who cries more when saying goodbye?
I've always been what one might call an emotional person. You can say I inherited it directly from my mother, who is as prone to crying as I am, whether in reaction to a significantly sad personal experience or at a more-sentimental-than-should-be-allowed commercial. Either way, I've shed a lot of tears in my thirty-something years.
I recently spent a few days with extended family after the death of my grandfather, and due to a slew of logistics, it made the most sense for me to travel alone, rather than have the entire family go along. As one might imagine, the news that Mommy would be gone for a few days was not joyfully received from my two youngest children, who have not spent more than a few days of their young lives away from me. I don't have a job that calls for me to be on the road, and as shocking as it may seem, I don't make it a habit of jet-setting off on exotic personal vacations. Really, I'm a stay-at-home mom and a homebody of modest financial means.
Translation-- I haven't been away from my kids for more than a few days of their young lives.
A few childhood memories linger in my head of times that I had to say goodbye to my own parents for an extended time, memories still weighed down with emotion. As a child of maybe 7 or 8, they drove to Lake George, N.Y. for a weekend anniversary celebration, leaving my sister and I in the capable hands of my grandmother. I remember lying in bed at night and trying not to cry so hard as to capture anyone's attention, but not being able to do anything else in response to the heaviness I felt in my chest. There's no scientific evidence to support this, but I still wonder if the onset of chicken pox I had that weekend was somehow emotionally driven.
Don't even get me started about going away to college. The small private college I attended did, and still does, pride itself on tradition, and for incoming freshman this involves an elaborate series of orientation experiences. This loveliness includes a ceremony for the entire incoming class at which goodbyes are said to the parental figures, who are then expected to leave en masse. For a person of average emotional stability, this tugs at the heartstrings in an almost sadistic way, but for folks like my mother and me, forget it. We were blubbering fools with squeaky voices and tear-streaked faces among small mountains of crumpled tissues.
Now on the other side of that goodbye hug, even if it is just for a few days, I felt my chest and throat tightening in the same way that it did when my 8-year-old self waved to my parents' departing car. Only this time, I felt even more obligated to keep it together. While my boys may have had long faces for a moment, our goodbyes were tear-free. As I turned to my daughter, it was a wholly different story, as I knowingly watched her face contort with her efforts to keep the tears from falling. Perhaps this emotionally-charged gene is specific to the mothers and daughters in my line.
For as much as I may joke about how lovely it would be to get away more often, I know in my heart that I'm just not great with goodbyes, long-term or even just temporary. Over the course of four days, I sure had my hands full with them ... and in the roles of mom, daughter and granddaughter, the hugs all shared an emotional similarity.
Dawn may reside in Greenbelt in real life, but online she lives at her blog, my thoughts exactly, where she chatters on about her funny kids, her NPR obsession and plenty of other randomness. She can also be found at 5 Minutes for Books, reviewing everything from contemporary fiction to children's literature.