"I will miss you." The words were spoken softly, right next to my ear, with the most genuine sincerity I had ever heard.
I realized I was in one of those moments.
I had moments like these sporadically, unexpectedly. They are moments apart from reality. They are moments one would only imagine seeing in movies--dramatic moments, moving moments. They are, to put it simply, perfect. It's as if they were staged. All I needed was sad background music.
We embraced each other for several moments. I squeezed tight before drawing back. She was crying silently. Her lips were pressed firmly together, doing their best to hold everything in. And her eyes. Those eyes were enough to break my heart. I had seen my mother cry before, for various reasons. But rarely had I ever been the cause for those tears. It bothered me to see her this way. I didn't want her to be upset.
Maybe it was because it was so late. Or maybe it was because we had just finished watching a really sad, sappy movie, which already made me feel like I was missing someone. I felt a sudden tightness in my throat. I usually don't cry. I wasn't going to cry. My throat felt tight, I was choking on an invisible collar.
We were still in the dramatic moment.
After pulling away from the hug, I reached out and took both of her hands in mine. I looked into those deep, dark, brown eyes.
"You'll see me next weekend at my meet."
She closed her eyes, lips still pressed firmly together, and nodded her head in agreement.
"And you can make me feel as guilty as you need to if I'm bad and don't call you on Sundays," I added. This made her laugh. I was glad to see her laugh. I felt relieved. She would be fine.
We had been in the laundry room folding my clothes. We both knew I was leaving in the morning. I was moving away. I wanted to say something meaningful, express my appreciation for all of her help. I don't remember what I said; I stumbled over my words. I must have managed to get something out that sounded decent. It was enough for her anyway, enough to make her cry.
After she laughed she sighed deeply. Looking up, she let go of my hands to wipe under her eyes. I could tell the moment was quickly ending. The level of emotion and vulnerability was steadily rising, evening out, my mother began to resume her role of responsibility; her coping mechanism.
"Do you have everything packed?" This was an unnecessary question. This was one of those questions that finalized the end of the moment. Reality was upon us.
"Yes. Except maybe we could swing by Hutch's when we get there so I can buy some bread."
She nodded her head. "Okay." She sighed again and shrugged her shoulders. I knew about these little shrugs. Her shrug told me she was alright now, it apologized for the small breakdown, and it let me know our conversation was almost over.
"Love you, Mom. I'll see you in the morning." I said.
"One more hug."
I hugged her again. We hugged carefully, quickly, wary not to get too caught up. She smiled sadly and walked to her room.
As I watched her leave, I began to realize the significance of what just happened. A person could go through her entire life and never grasp the weight and meaning of such invaluable windows of time. This was something I couldn’t shrug it off. Moments like this, perfect yet so real, don’t just happen. These sort of moments must be reflected on and processed out. I am a processor. I must process everything. I walked down the stairs to the basement. I didn't turn on any lights. I welcomed the darkness. There is darkness in prayer. Darkness shuts madness out that steals away thoughts. Darkness enlightens the soul and transforms the mundane. In darkness, I am able to visualize my thoughts. In darkness, the mind sees best.
When I reached the bathroom I turned on the light. I began to brush my teeth. I stared at myself in the mirror as I moved the brush around in my mouth. I turned those four words over and over, I will miss you. I thought about the way she said them. There was no doubt in my mind they were sincere.
What does it mean to miss someone? I wondered. What does it mean to miss someone the way she already missed me?
I thought of the kind of kid I was. How distant, forgetful, and irresponsible I could be. I thought how I often opted out of and avoided family things.
I thought of how generous she was. She gave me so much without a second thought. She gave me more than I needed. She gave me life, she brought me into this world. How much money, time, resources, life had she poured into me? I knew I owed her a debt, a debt I could never repay.
Someday I would leave for good. This house wouldn't be my home. Someday I would only be a guest here. I was already a guest.
Somewhere between the long moments I sat in the movie theatre for the first time, when I didn’t spill red paint on the carpet, when we found a mouse in the basement ceiling, the Friday night we ate popcorn and watched Dr. Quinn, and I asked why they were kissing for so long, when I rode on a two-wheeled bike all by myself, and the Sunday morning I lost my gum in my sister’s hair, I grew up. Is there a moment when we step from childhood into adulthood? Can we mark the transfiguration on our calendars from girl to woman, from boy to man, from young to old to older? I realized these transformations were made up of moments, just like this one. If moments truly define my life, it was clear to me I just experienced the moment I became an adult. The moment I was no longer a child. Those four words had also said one other word, goodbye.
She had whispered farewell to the child inside me. In two years I would graduate from college. In two years I would move to another city, or state, or country. In two years, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be in this house, sleeping under this roof. I would be far away living in a place I have never seen before.
She wanted me to stay. Not to just stay at home, but to stay young; to stay innocent, dependent on her. It took far greater love to let me go, to put me and my burning desire for independence above her own longing to remain my mother.
I reached an understanding. I understood, or at least glimpsed, how much my mother loved me, how much she missed me, and what it meant to be missed by someone who raised you from childhood. She missed her little girl. The little girl who climbed up on her lap, begging for another chapter read out loud. She missed the little girl who asked to have her clothes changed five times a day, who begged for a real kitten. The little girl who drew abstract pictures of her, who wrote her little cards with every other word spelled wrong. Her little girl who didn't like to sleep alone at night. Perhaps I will never truly understand until I have my own child, but I knew there was so much weight, so much meaning in those four words, I will miss you.
I finished in the bathroom. I turned off the light and went to my room for one of the last times. In a strange way I will miss her too. Still, she knows. We both know, time cannot, will not, change everything.