May 13, 2013

How did this all happen so fast? My daughter Gabi has only a few days left of high school. Then we’re into prom season, summer goodbyes and then…packing my only child off to college. After that, we are each on to totally new lives.

This is one of the moments I’ve been working towards since the day she was born. There’s great joy and relief in knowing that she is going forward as a beautiful, smart, compassionate young woman. Gabi is about to explore her potential! Which leaves me on a new journey on the home front. This is also exciting for me but…can I admit that the prospect is a bit scary?

To make sure I really miss her, the girl really outdid herself for Mother’s Day. She started off the morning by giving me a gorgeous bouquet. Next came the tasty toasted, buttered bagel that was worth a break from my gluten-free regimen and had our dog Rosebud begging for a bite. Then there was the gorgeous Papyrus card with paper cut-outs of gladiolus flowers shaped into a sexy, high-heeled shoe (we share a fondness for flamboyant footwear!). Her handwritten message made me cry (she also happens to be a very, very expressive writer).

After that, Gabs said we could do whatever I wanted. So she drove us about half an hour north to  the Katonah Museum of Art, a tiny gem of an organization that I just joined as an artist member. We were there to check out a marvelous exhibition, “Beyond the Bed: The American Quilt Evolution.”  Loved it!

Quilts have a special meaning for me, for us. I started machine quilting just before Gabi was born. They were my first explorations of color, before I knew I was a painter. Over the years, I’ve made these one-of-a-kind blankets in all sizes for my loved ones, from little blankies for swaddling infants to king size spreads.

Here’s a quilt I made for Gabi when she was still a kid. Most of the squares are scraps from things I had previously sewn for her….the Halloween witch costume, baby blankets, baby dresses and pillows.

Too bad, I should’ve photographed more of my quilts. But here are a few:

When Gabi was younger, she and I even went on mother-and-daughter quilting workshops with another mom and little girl who were both our good friends. Quilts represent the piecing together of moments of my life. The process infuses my art and my personal philosophy. (Someday, I’ll do a proper post about this, with more photos.)

After the museum, we stopped by Gabi’s dad’s place so that she could give a pretty bouquet to her stepmom and say hi to her two stepsisters. Then my 18-year-old driver took us back home to Hastings-on-Hudson for a delicious brunch at Juniper.

This neighborhood favorite is one of those farm-to-table restaurants where the menu constantly changes depending on what’s in season locally. We shared a mushroom soup. I had a great scallop salad. Gabi’s grilled cheese sandwich was out of this world (instead of cheddar, it was made with melted fontina and taleggio; rapturously sinful).

After lunch, Mommy Cinderella turned back into a pumpkin. Gabi dropped me off at home while she drove off to help her BFF with prom-related stuff. The kid lasted four whole hours solitary with me. Not bad at all.

Now, the letting go process continues. Of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way. We both know she MUST go away for college to have her own life, away from Mommy’s constant hovering. It will give both of us space to reconfigure a new relationship.

And it’s time to do that….

Here’s an example of how the conversation could change: Over lunch, Gabi told me about a concert that she’ll be attending soon. She showed me the event website and explained  the music. My response was to ask her when she would have time for lunch, would she be eating enough that day. Groan!

Well. I feel better after sharing this post. Thank goodness, I also have my neighborhood moms to turn to. We spend a fair amount of time worrying together about the kids going to college — not about their issues but ours. “Are you going to be okay?” “Are you ready for this?” That’s what we constantly ask each other.

This whole experience is also new for me because I never went away to college. Lived at home right through grad school. What did you expect? I had old-fashioned tiger parents who wanted to keep me close for all the wrong reasons. My history makes me super-determined to make sure that Gabi has the space to find her own happiness.

I will find new happiness too, I’m sure of it — but only if I can let go. Can I develop a new routine not based on taking care of a child? Will I succeed in assuming a new full-time role as entrepreneur? Can I let down my guard long enough to let new relationships into my life? Shall we pause now for me to release a loud, long, anxiety-filled scream?

So. If you’ve been through this as a parent, child or another interesting capacity, please do share your advice and observations in the comments below. It would help build a solid foundation for those of us who want to do right by our kids and ourselves. xo