Never was I one of those mothers who cried when they sent their baby(ies) off to nursery school. Okay. I confess, I winced a nanosecond, my eyes moistening. I stood on the other side of the open window, the thin, white curtain--trimmed in red, grosgrain ribbon--bellowed out toward me while I stood in the church's entranceway to the neighborhood Mothers Day Out. On the other side of the window I could hear her babbling melodically to herself like she still does. She was playing at the miniature kitchenette oblivious that I had slipped out. I resisted the urge to run to my car and midway en route leaping into the air and clicking my heels: Victory! Time for ME!
Not long after all hell broke loose.
All hell broke loose in that tiny Mother's Day Out room and in our lives. The sweet director that ssshhhed away my earnest concerns that there was something not right with my child--the same concerns I shared with the neighboring nurse, the Kindermusik teacher, anyone I could corral to listen, only to be dismissed. After all hell broke loose and Grace tantrummed unlike no child had ever--unlike no child ever does except one with undiagnosed and untreated autism--that sweet-voiced director called me on the phone. Only an hour of bliss had passed for me. An hour at home, alone. I was writing at my computer, back then a clunky a word processor. The kind with an ugly beige ET-looking head, blinking an orange alphabet on a black screen--me perched in front of it, hands clicking the keyboard, entertaining visions of more time to freelance for magazines and newspapers.
All hell had broken loose and they were unable to calm her. They watched her as she jammed her tiny finger up one nostril and left it there, later staring through the play yard chain-link fence and a hole through the director who crouched in front of her, calling out my preschooler's name with no response. Someone else finally agreed with me: something was not right with my child. "Come at noon," she told me. "We'll make her time here half days." Damn. Breath drawn. Held. Then, let go, shakily.
A diagnosis, years of therapies, interventions, camps, programs, doctors, exhalations, pit wallowings. Here I sit, another computer in front of me. A five-year-old laptop, clunky compared to its sexier, younger versions. My 19-year-old is due home on the bus in 45 minutes and I'm not ready. I've not been ready for this for several years now though it has been breathing clammy breath on the back of my bare, exposed neck. Just as I was never able to send her off to a typical day of Mother's Day Out like other moms, I'm not able to send her off as a college freshman. And I won't be sending her out there in the world ever to live alone, not all by herself, leaving me here, as well, alone, all by myself.
I want hours. Hours. Hours and hours of time alone. Weeks. Months. Time to write. Time to create. Time to get papers organized, things done. I, too, want to be an empty nester. Doesn't every parent have that right?
Apparently, it did not come with the package I ordered.