This signals our preemptive hugs and kisses and squishing cheeks. My 5 and 7-year-old darlings still desperately dangle from me whenever they can. I shed them like porcelain doll leeches and cheerfully say goodbye. I watch their little behinds and their little legs reach high to climb the maturity mountain that leads on to the school bus. The driver smiles and says good morning. They become officially hers. I do this most every morning. It feels confusing.
The doors close and I turn to retrace our steps to the house. Where there were six there are now only two. The snow has finally melted, but I sense their footprints just the same. I glance at the pond and the yard and the trees, but mostly I look down at the cement, at my feet. No doubt I am wearing a comical combination of wrinkled skinny jeans and slippers or yoga pants and big bulky boots. I smile at the sight of myself. With each step I let go of them a little and begin to remember that I am alone. I am not sad. I am glad they are gone, for then they get their time and I get mine. But still, I miss them.
They are funny and sweet, clever and bright. They reek of their father (in more ways than one) and I love seeing him in them. They are aggravating and pushy, ungrateful and grumpy. They remind me of me (and then, yet, not quite) and I remain puzzled most of the time. They are the richest and hardest thing I have ever chosen to do. And honestly, one wasn't exactly a choice. But, there is nothing I feel more genuinely, more viscerally, more willingly than motherhood. I wear it inside and out, in my head and my heart, on my sleeve, on my face, on my car. I literally question everything else.
I am a mother.