I saw it coming.

I knew in my heart that it would be unavoidable. My mind raced, but was prepared.

My spirit was not ready to let go.

As I parted ways with my daughter a month ago at the Stuttgart airport and watched her embark on her great Hobo Trip (backpacking throughout Europe with a couple of friends), I mustered all the strength humanly possible not to shed a tear in front of her.

emptyFriends who have walked this path ahead of me warned of the emptiness and sense of loss, but also of the joys of rediscovering life and re-entering the social mainstream without the burdens of school calendars, after-school activities, projects, parent-teacher conferences, and everything associated with school life. On paper, and in my logical mind, I was prepared.

Over the last 18 years I watched my little sparrow grow and spread her wings. She had many summers of weeks without Mommy so she could make tentative solo flights. At the end of the holiday, however, it was always a return to the nest and the safety net.

The sparrow has grown strong wings.

The wind is fortuitous.

The horizon is hers to conquer.

I watch her soar higher and further away.

Re-discovering life as a woman with stand-by motherhood status is an uphill battle at the moment. I suddenly yearn for all those hours of struggling with a tween, and later on teenager. It will be several months before I can indulge in the luxury of embracing my little girl (yes, in my heart she will always be my little girl) and curl up on the couch with her to gossip or even watch another episode of Hannibal while eating burgers! I am not even ashamed to say that I miss nagging her about upcoming deadlines or complain about another email from the school.

Moving to another country and setting up a new home merely makes the empty nest even more difficult to deal with. I turn around and have a silent cat with huge confused eyes to keep me company, who neither talks about make-up nor likes burgers and pizza.

“Empty Nest” is a misnomer. It should be called “Hollow Nest” instead, because the silence in the house is deafening. I found myself playing loud “emo” music last night just to pretend that she was still around.

I had lunch today with my college spiritual mentor. Being the practical Jesuit priest he has always been, he simply looked at me and said “She’s gone, don’t dwell on it. Come back to the Ateneo and serve the poor. Teach the young generation all about preferential option for the poor.”

Talk about being whacked on the head by a Jesuit – again!

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