Without a word of a lie, watching Amanda walk away was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It’s a strange phase of mothering I think, this part where you have to let them go, right when they are old enough to get up to the sort of no-good that makes you want to keep them close by.
I didn’t cry (loudly) and I didn’t make a scene, and for the record, neither did she. We arrived at the airport, checked her in, and waited until she was through security and out of reach and sight before leaving. I watched her go and tried not to yell stupid embarrassing things at her disappearing back. Things like “I’ll wait right here” and “Don’t go”. That was at 5, (flight at 6:30) and Joe and Kelly (who works at the airport) convinced me that hanging around the airport waiting for the flight to leave, even though we couldn’t be with her was silly. I came home where at least she could phone me. I hovered around the house, knitting, feeling odd and out of place and busying myself with stuffing the compulsion to run back to the airport and save her from the big world, way down. At 6:11 Kelly phoned to say that Amanda’s bum was in her seat. I went and took a bath. I lay there in, listening to the planes going overhead and wondering which one she was on. Was it that one? That one? That ones engine sounded funny. Maybe I should call someone? Tell them that my child, the one I have invested 16 years of my life in, is on a plane right now and that I think it flew over my house just this minute and that the engine sounds a little off and maybe they could just radio the plane and ask the pilot if everything is ok? Just get him to check.
I felt ok while she was in the air, her flight landed at 3am our time (9am her time…HER TIME. My child is in another time zone. I’m dizzy.) and I started waiting for her to call.
She didn’t. Not all day Sunday.
I don’t understand the cruel tearing of motherhood. I often say that mothering is a unique occupation, and the only one in which you are trying to put yourself out of business. The whole idea of it is to spend whole decades trying to create (in the most labour intensive way possible) a whole new human being who doesn’t need you. It’s ironic that in the beginning, being a good mother is about carrying them with you, staying nearby, rocking, walking…keeping close and never letting them out of your sight, and then suddenly you have this whole almost adult person and being a good mother is suddenly about standing back and letting them just walk away and worse than that…pushing them to do it and then hanging around the house afraid to go buy milk because they might phone… It’s horrible.
I keep looking at this picture of her. Every time I think about getting on a plane and going to Austria and just showing up at the hotel I look at this. (Imagine that? Amanda comes back from a concert and I’m just sitting on the edge of the bed. All I say is “You didn’t call”.) She’s drinking tea and somehow that means something, doesn’t it? It’s not a sippy cup, she’s not drinking apple juice. She’s a young woman, and there’s really no difference between allowing caffeine and allowing a trip to Europe. Right? I’m knitting like a fiend and engaging in my new hobby, which is clutching her itinerary and imagining where she is at this moment. It goes perfectly with Sam’s new hobby, which is telling everyone in the family what time it is in Austria. Still no call.
I snapped on Sunday afternoon and called her, I felt nauseous when the man who answered the phone at the hotel said “Guten tag” (What have I done?). She’s fine. She loves it. Austria is beautiful. I didn’t say any of the things in my head. None of them. I didn’t say “be careful” and “watch out” and “are you ok”. I have to believe that my instincts are such that I wouldn’t have sent her if I didn’t think she could do it. I said “Have fun” “see everything” and “take pictures”. I got a little loose at the end and said “I miss you” but she didn’t say it back, I’m taking that as a sign that I’m doing my job and making a person who doesn’t need me. Eyes on the prize. I’m knitting.