The front room of my house sits directly over the garage. There are two windows that face west and protect the room from the rising sun, which is important in Florida. They also face the road so it gets a little noisy at times. The walls are light blue and the dark blue curtains make the deep blue hues from the large painting stand out. Aside from the painting that my daughter picked up at an auction, the only other object in the room is a new futon my husband and I bought in case we needed an extra guest room. When he comes home he’ll wonder why I’m in here because we don’t use this room. This is our daughter’s room. We still refer to it as "Mary Lou's" room even though it’s been more than a year since she moved out.
As I sit here, on what I’m discovering is a very uncomfortable futon, I can’t help but picture the room the way it used to be. It was never this clean. I always hated the way she couldn’t hang up her clothes or throw away her trash. Every time I entered I had to physically push things aside to make a path for myself. Sometimes I’d find my missing shoes underneath the rubble and make a mental note to reprimand her later for borrowing without asking permission. The walls used to be a horrible shade of orange that she insisted on having. I always suspected it was her way of reminding us how angry she was for moving her so far away from her friends and her beloved Syracuse University. The room looks better now. So why do I miss the clutter?
When I look around this cold, empty room, I can’t help but compare it to my heart. It feels hollow and desolate. I’m reminded of all the childhood memories she’s gifted me with. I can hear her say, “Just one more song, Mommy.” I was once her entire world. No one was more important than Mommy. Sometimes I would watch her sleep as tears ran down my face because I knew she wouldn’t stay small forever and no matter how much we taught her and prepared her for life on her own, I would never be ready for that day. Nothing prepares you for parenthood. Sure there are books you can read and classes you can take but they cannot equip you for the array of emotions you will experience. It is incomprehensible how much you can love someone until you hold your child in your arms. It feels as if your heart will explode. Or the fear you’ll feel when you fully understand you can’t always be there for them every second of the day.
Watching "Mary Lou" grow up has been an incredible experience. I think she taught me just as much as I’ve taught her, if not more. I’m so proud of the young woman she’s become and I can’t wait to see where she goes from here. She turns 22 in two days and she’s starting a whole new chapter of life with an extraordinary young man, and they seem harmoniously happy together. I’m still apprehensive for her, as I suspect I always will be, but I’m eager to see her start her new life. Perhaps one day when I come into this room I won’t be sad because I can imagine a crib against the far wall so the sounds from the road won’t be so obtrusive; or maybe a rocking chair and a music box. I can sing lullabies again and share stories when they ask me what their mom was like at their age. It would be nice if they could spend some weekends with me the way "Mary Lou" did with her grandparents. And maybe, just maybe I’ll get to hear children pleading earnestly, “Just one more song, Grandma.”