Monday, August 19, 2013

Essie and the Empty Nest

Our dog, Essie, has "empty nest" syndrome. Our Baby Girl, the last one in the nest, was safely deposited in her dorm room on the campus of her new school last Friday. I should mention that Essie is actually Baby Girl's dog. She was given as an "instead of a car" gift on Baby Girl's sixteenth birthday. They have been inseparable since.

The week before our departure Essie slept in the den, keeping guard over Baby Girl's piles of things waiting to be packed in boxes and bags. I said, "don't worry, she won't forget you." As we were packing the car and Essie paced fretfully between the car and the house, I told her, "don't worry, she'll be fine without you." As we were leaving the house, and Essie was put in the backyard to wait for the dogsitter, all I could muster was, "Don't worry."

There are things I won't say to Essie. I won't tell her that, while I waited for City Husband to park the car  and for Baby Girl to pick up her room key, a woman, whose name I don't know but who was kind enough to help us unload the car, must have sensed something in my face as I stood alone keeping watch over the mountain of possessions. She said, "They are long days but short years, aren't they?" and I had to bite my lip to keep from crying.

I didn't tell Essie that once we were finished unpacking and setting up her dorm room, Baby Girl gave us a big hug. It might have been my imagination, but I think it lasted a little longer and was a little tighter than usual. As I squeezed her close, I felt the tiny baby with dimples and a rosebud mouth, a happy-go-lucky preschooler, a curious elementary school kid who lip-synced to Avril Lavigne, and as quick as a hug all eighteen years flew past me. When I opened my eyes, there stood a beautiful, confident, capable young woman.

We made a few jokes and I said the requisite, "remember to use the buddy system, don't accept drinks from strangers, always know where you are, and keep your cellphone charged!" Then it was over. Suddenly, City Husband and I were in the car driving away, keeping up appearances and trying to be brave for each other.

We've just returned to the empty nest, and I am trying to reassure Essie. "Don't worry," I tell her, "she'll be back for Fall Break. Two months isn't so long, is it?" I hope I am convincing, but I'm not so sure.

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