Friday, August 12, 2011

Can you hear me now?

It was the third week of our daughter being away at her pre-college summer art program when I first noticed the symptoms.

I feel weird, I told my husband. Am I getting a summer cold? Coming down with a fever?

Nope, none of the above. I think I felt strange because a piece of our family was missing.

A mother can only take separation for so long. There comes a certain point when she needs, physically needs, her children. Call it Mom Withdrawal.

We had been texting with our girl every other day or so, but I had only been able to actually talk to her once. Funny, it seemed like every time I called, she couldn’t answer the phone.

“In the (theater/class/cafeteria). Can’t talk now,” she’d text back.

Talking to her mother was obviously not at the top of her priority list — imagine that.

My husband and I pored over the text messages that we did get like they were hieroglyphics.

Naturally, they lacked all the detail a mother craves.

What’s it like sharing a bathroom with six other girls? What did you eat for dinner last night? Did you eat dinner last night? Have you done any laundry yet? Are you wearing your retainer?

She didn’t ask about us. She didn’t ask about her sisters. She didn’t even ask about her dog.

I tried sending loaded text messages to try and get a reaction.

“Just put $50 into your account.”

“Your sister is riding your bike.”

“I’m cleaning out your room.”


It was like trying to start a relationship with someone who is just not that into you.

I can relate. When I started college, my parents dropped me off at my dorm room and I did not look back. I resisted seeing them again for as long as possible. Go home for a visit? What — and miss all this fun?

In some ways, it’s been easy having her gone. There’s no fighting, no arguing about doing summer homework assignments, Saturday cleaning or sharing anything with her sisters. I got a welcome break from our mother-daughter driving lessons.

I don’t have to worry about her. She’s safe. She’s (theoretically) in her dorm room by curfew, with the lights out at 11 p.m. She’s fed three times a day from an all-you-can-eat buffet and make-your-own-sandwich bar. Someone else is in charge of her day-to-day self, which takes the mom responsibility out of my hands. It’s refreshing, but a little sad at the same time.

I can’t wait to see her again, but that also means I’ll be back on the job. After four weeks of being mom-free, Miss Independent may not take this so well.

I’m not sure how I’ll take it either. I should take bets on how long the parent-daughter reunion honeymoon will last. Three, maybe four hours? Somewhere near Fresno, about halfway home?

After weeks of sporadic texts and that one call, my phone lit up the other night.

It was her! Actually calling me!

I grabbed my phone.

Hello! I said excitedly. How are you?!

There was a buzz of conversation on the other end.

Hello? I said. Hello?

I could hear more voices, but no one replied.

Are you there? I said. Can you hear me?

Then I got it.

My own daughter butt-dialed me.

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