I have a vague memory of being very small and walking outside to greet the night, barefooted and in my pink nightgown that was scattered with strawberries. We lived in the country far away from anything that resembles the sky glow that I face now on the nights when I try to find Orion, or the Big and Little Dipper. I sneaked past my parents, absorbed in their television program, and felt the crispy grass of August beneath my feet. From my hilled yard, I met the vastness of the speckled sky. My heart boomed in my chest and my breath quickened. It was so big, so wide and so endlessly enveloping that it scared me. So, I ran from the night in my little bare feet to the safety of my house, slamming the screen door behind me. I was relieved to see the white ceiling above me, and relieved to see my skin bathed in the artificial light of the living room lamp. My mother turned away from her show with a start at the slam of the door. I had frightened her, too. Why was her silly girl out of bed? She scooped me up, kissed my blond curls, and tucked me in the safety of my covers.
Lately, I feel like I’ve been staring at the night sky, but instead of finding myself faced with the enormity of space, I find myself enveloped by the vastness of this new role that I find myself in. I am mothering from afar. My oldest is five hours away and fully engrossed in biochemistry, microanatomy, and clinical skills. My youngest, is the independent young woman that I always knew she’d be. Do I need to remind her to take her medication, or make a doctor’s appointment? Nope, she’s got it. She has a boyfriend, a ton of girlfriends and plethora of activities that keep her busy. It’s just as it should be, and I know that my role right now is to step back and let both of them be the adults that they were raised to be. They’re busy tasting the fruit of independence, and I know from past experience that it is very sweet. But, what’s to become of me? The mother who held them tight and sheltered them, who cooked their favorite foods, cleaned their scrapes and read them stories? Who am I without them in my house and at my table, and tucked into their beds safely at night? That’s the question for me right now. Its answer could be as complex as the systems of stars I once feared, or it could be as simple and pure as the words on my screen. I am faced with freedom and there is a part of me that longs to be tethered to the safety of my past, bathed in the light of familiarity. There is also that fragment, so long ago sequestered by responsibility, who knows she must run out into the night, feel the sunbaked grass of August beneath her feet and embrace the endless sheet of night, the speckled stars and glowing moon, unafraid.
Do you know who you are and what you want from life? How did you invent, or reinvent, yourself?