Driving Molly to college seemed like a good idea at the time. She could have flown, and shipped her things separately, but I couldn't stand the thought of leaving her at the curb at the airport like a houseguest who's overstayed her welcome.
A road trip just seemed so appealing, a final adventure for the two of us to share. A farewell tour. All through the summer I've been picturing us in the old Suburban, stuffed to the top with things Molly will need in the freshman dorm, singing along with the radio and reminiscing about old times. Now as I face the sullen rebellion in Molly's face, the idyllic picture dissipates.
I want these long, empty hours with her on the road. I need them with an intensity that I hide from Molly, because I don't want her to worry that I'm getting desperate.
The rearview mirror frames a view of our boxy, painted house, where we've lived since before Molly was born. Not for the first time, it hits me that I'll come home to an empty nest. People say this stage of life is a golden time, filled with possibility. Someone --- probably a woman with too many kids and pets --- once said the true definition of freedom is when the last child leaves home and the dog dies. At last, you get your life back. Your time is your own. The trouble is --- and I can't bear to admit this, even to Dan --- I never said I wanted it back.
As we pull out onto the street, he stands and watches us go, the dog leaning against his leg. My husband braces an arm on the front gate and lowers his head. When I get back from this journey, he and I will be two alone again, the way we were eighteen years ago, before the explosion of love that was Molly, before late-night feedings and bouts of the croup, before scary movies and argued-over curfews, before pranks and laughter, tempests and tears.
With Molly gone, we'll have all this extra space in our lives. I'll have to look him in the eye and ask, “Are you still the same person I married?” Or maybe the real question is, Am I?
I picture us seated across the dinner table from each other, night after night. What will we talk about? Do we know everything about each other, or is there still more to discover? I can't recall the last time I asked him about his dreams and desires, or the last time he asked me something more than “Did you feed the dog this morning?”
I invested so much more time in Molly over the years. When there's a daughter keeping us preoccupied, it's easy to slip away from each other.
With all my heart, I hope it's equally easy to reach across the divide. I suppose I'll find out soon enough.
Excerpted from The Goodbye Quilt © Copyright 2012 by Susan Wiggs. Reprinted with permission by Mira. All rights reserved.