It’s the kind of anxiety that shocks me awake at 3 and holds on tight until 5. An anxiety that you can’t understand until it punches you in the gut. The nights before she leaves are the worst. I want to climb the stairs to her bedroom. I’ll move the stuffed animals to make just enough room in that little twin bed next to her. I’ll smell her hair and listen to her nonsensical sleep talk and it’ll calm me back to sleep. It took a few months to set in. Now it’s normal.
We pack her bag in the morning. Blanky, Teddy, the clothes she wore home two weeks ago, always an extra stuffed animal and pair of shoes. The drive to school is a quiet one. My special request for an extra hug is granted.
I wander around the office. Stare at my computer screen. Get an extra cup of coffee. Check my phone too often. Send a reminder text, “you’re picking up Ellie tonight, right?”
At that house she has bunk beds, yellow walls and a different set of parents.
On the weekends without her I go to fancy brunches, have an extra glass of wine, clean the house, cook spicy food. I’d rather not.
Nine years ago she was growing inside me. For so long I knew everything about her: where that bruise came from, what she had for breakfast yesterday, how firm her poop was. Now she spends two weeks away every month.
I’m doing okay. I’m doing better than most people. She’s doing okay too.
I wonder if that same anxiety wakes her in the middle of the night.