“I can’t talk to you now,” I barked at my friend on the phone. “It’s the Last Supper!”
“Oh!” she said, in complete understanding. “I forgot. Sorry!””
It was my daughter’s last night in town before moving up to UC Berkeley for her first year of college, and she wanted to have dinner with me. Her father was driving her up there, bless him–I couldn’t handle it.
I spent all day cleaning the house. I made her favorite macaroni and cheese. My secret is making it on the stovetop with plenty of cream and 2 kinds of cheese–cheddar and gruyere–then topping it with a mixture of panko bread crumbs and cheeses and broiling it for a contrasting crunch.
We were sitting on the sofa eating what we euphemistically referred to as a “casual dinner,” so dubbed because we weren’t eating at the dining room table.
We watched the season premiere of “Project Runway. ” The show was a guilty pleasure we enjoyed together. We made comments about the contestants and opined our views on their attitudes and creations.
For dessert, there was a raspberry tart, served with plenty of whipped cream.
And then it was all over. Time for her to go. Neither of us spoke on the 10 minute drive to her father’s house.
“Now Mom, ,” she began in a maternal tone as she neared the house. “I want you to take care of yourself while I’m away at college. I worry about you, you know. You’re too skinny and need to eat better.”
I bit my lip. I cannot start blubbering now.
“You’re stepping all over my lines,” I protested, my throat catching just a little. Suddenly I feel like I’m eighty.
“You’re not crying, are you?” She said darkly.
“No! My contacts are bothering me,” I snorted.
She pulled up into the driveway and we got out of the car, holding hands as we walked to the door. We went into the house, and I saw that her tiny room was piled high with boxes. There was barely room for the two of us. I sighed under the weight of it
“Okay…” I said, either stalling or dragging it out, I’m not sure which. I hugged her and started full-on, chest-heaving sobbing.
“No, Mom, no! You can’t start crying! Then I’ll start crying and I don’t want that! I’m coming back for Thanksgiving, you know. I’m not leaving the planet!” But she’s crying, anyway.
“I can’t help it,” I snuffled, finally releasing her. “Well, I’d better go.” She followed me outside.
“Wait! One more hug,” she cried. It was one-more-hug all the way down the driveway to my car.
“Have a safe drive up there.” I said, getting into my car. “And call me when you get settled. I want to hear all about your move.” I know the rules, because my friend Gretchen taught them to me 4 years ago, when her beloved daughter went away to Berkeley. Don’t call your college student. Follow her lead. If she calls you when you’re not at home, you are allowed to call her back.
“Okay, I will,” my girl promised. I watched her walk back to the house in the dark. She turned and waved one last time.
You’ll be alright, I thought, remembering the moment she was born and I fell crazy in love with her. And you’ll always be my sweet baby girl.
I had a hard time sleeping that night. The sound of crickets was deafening.