Monday, December 3, 2012

Joyful Faces

Last night, I hit a Mommy Milestone. I spent my first night away from my children.

Ever since I made the decision, mid-week last week, to make the annual trip down to my Alma Mater to visit with my voice/chorale professor, and attend the Christmas Vespers there, I've been swamped with anxiety over the prospect of leaving. Not because I was worried for Tom- I knew that he could definitely handle one night and one morning alone- and not even really because I was worried for my children, themselves. I guess I was mostly worried about me, and how it might make me feel to be away from them for so long.

I fussed and whined to Tom, and swore that I wouldn't go, after all. But in the end, I had made a commitment that I knew I would keep.

And so, on Sunday afternoon, I kissed Michael on the cheek (Abby was napping), gave Tom a lingering hug, and set off with my father into the unknown.

In the end, it wasn't such a big deal, after all. My father and I were engaged in lively conversation on the three-hour plus trip there, and I quickly became distracted upon our arrival at the college. Simply walking on to campus is very emotional for me, because every time I step foot back there I carry with me (in addition to the usual feelings of sentimentality) the pain of a great loss, and a deep resistance to change. You see, when I was a student there, I was surrounded by female classmates. Only female classmates. We were a woman's college, and proud to be one, but amidst a flurry of debate and dissension, the college bowed to financial pressure and became coed six years after I graduated.

The chorale remained all female for much longer, due to an initial shortage of eligible males. Last year was the first year that I saw men singing amidst the traditionally female group, and I cried a little at the sight of it. I thought that this year I would be over it, having seen it before, but somehow it struck me even more deeply to see twice the number of men spread among the group (which, itself, was much larger this year). I shed no tears, however, until I heard the men sing alone, a sound that should not have been unexpected, but was, and that I found simultaneously beautiful and tragic to behold.

As the night wore on, I set aside my conflicting emotions, and concentrated on the program, which was lovely. More than once, I did feel some pretty heavy pangs, wishing that my husband and children were enjoying the evening with me, but I had to laugh a little every time the thought re-occurred. After all, at the age my children are, at least one of us would likely not have been enjoying ourselves at any given moment, were we all in attendance.

I had a chance to visit and chat with my professor and his wife afterwards, and we all stayed up far later than we probably should have, catching up. The hardest moments were in the down-time, when food and drinks were being fetched, and I stole a few precious minutes here and there to check in with Tom via texts back and forth. With each new message, I missed him, Abby, and Michael, profoundly and terribly, but I had wonderful conversation to return to afterwards, and (blessedly) very little time to dwell on my circumstances.

Predictably, I did not sleep particularly well. I was plagued by strange dreams, and woke to every little noise that there was to be heard.

The trip home was probably the hardest, however. I was eager to be back, which only prolonged the experience, though the drive itself was smooth, uncomplicated, and required no stops.

But Tom and Michael were waiting at the front door, smiles on their faces. I had to wait for the sleeping beauty to awaken before I could see my sweet Abby, but she greeted me with a grin, and asked me, "Did you have a nice nap?" I wonder if she thought that's where I was all of that time- having a long nap- or whether she really noticed my absence at all.

Certainly, things were back to "business as usual" quite immediately, and soon, it hardly felt as if I had left in the first place.

Then came dinnertime, and it was one of those evenings that it was easy to lay aside whatever weariness-of -routine and frustration was to be had that day (though my day was mostly free of that to begin with, for once) and truly enjoy the parenting experience as it unfolded. Abby was cheerful and exquisitely behaved. No food was thrown or refused. There was very little whining, and no screaming. But best of all, there was a grand moment of happiness that unfolded, naturally and unexpectedly.

Tom, desperate to get Michael to repeat the "dadidadida" sounds that he swears Michael was making yesterday, began to intone, "Michael, say 'dada.'" Abby, however had her own agenda. She began to chant, "Michael, say 'milk.'" Back and forth they went, each attempting to egg on Michael, but resultantly, egging on each other.

And the chain reaction began. Michael became caught up in the growing excitement, and suddenly, there were squeals of delight and peals of laughter all around.

Such an abundance of joyful faces.

It is so good to be home.