Sophie looked around her daughter’s empty room and her eyes filled with tears. She had just returned from taking Gloria to her college dormitory and the two of them had put up some of Gloria’s posters on the wall nearest the bed to give it a familiar feeling. They were running out of things to do. All that was left was to put Gloria’s clothing in the tiny closet and in the two dresser drawers that were assigned to her. Then mother and daughter hugged each other hard, knowing that today was the beginning of a new life for Gloria and an empty life for Sophie.
Sophie considered asking Gloria if she wanted to go down to the cafeteria for a last cup of coffee but she could feel the lump in her throat as she started to talk and knew that she would break down and cry if their last goodbye was to be over a cup of coffee. She just smiled at her daughter, hugged her again, and told her how proud she was of her. Then, she walked slowly to her car, started the engine, and drove a couple of blocks away before turning off the ignition and putting her head against the steering wheel and crying as if her heart was breaking.
If saying goodbye to Gloria after she got her settled in her college dormitory was so painful, what was it going to feel like when she left home permanently? “This must be what the empty nest syndrome feels like,” thought Sophie. “For all these years, Gloria has been the center of my life. I drove her to her dancing lessons, to her parties, to all her activities. I even became a Girl Scout leader and a chaperone at her high school dances, and took her and her friends on camping trips, and we had so much fun. And now she’s gone.”
When Sophie got home, she laid down on Gloria’s bed in a fetal position, too emotionally drained to move. “I feel like part of me has been surgically removed and I’ll never recover.”
A couple of hours later the phone rang. Sophie was almost too lethargic to get up but she made herself answer the phone. It was Gloria and Sophie felt rejuvenated until Gloria told her that this would be a perfect time for Sophie to register for some college courses and pursue the career she had given up after Gloria was born.
When Sophie got off the phone, her first thought was that she could take those courses at Gloria’s college but then she smiled and thought, “Hell, no. This is MY time. No husband, no daughter, no meals that I have to cook. I can do anything I want.” Then, she went into the spare bedroom and packed up all the arts and crafts supplies she had used for Gloria’s activities and started making space for her new college textbooks, excited about going back to school to start her new life.