In the whispers of my quiet morning, I hear myself.
"Three-fifty," I say.
One-third cup oil.
I've already been to Schnucks. Spent an absurd amount of time deciding between soda cans or two liter bottles for Maggie's graduation party on Sunday.
In the quiet kitchen, I stir, crack, blend. I'm making cinnamon muffins and putting on coffee for the girls, asleep, downstairs. Oh, they'll be up and out fast, these muffins are to go. But these are girls I have not laid eyes on since they left for college last summer.
"She's not processing this," I kept telling Dan last spring, last summer.
Maggie's heart, her friends, her girls, her confidants--her confidENCE--all girls one year older than her. And all graduating and moving on last year. She had nearly no one left. Not totally, but nearly.
"Maggie is not processing all of this loss," I said over and over to my mom when we talked every Sunday on the phone. Mom worried. I worried. Will worried. Dan worried, Hailey worried.
Maggie did not worry, not consciously, but it lurked in her face, her brittleness, an echo in every bit of her energy.
Nevertheless. She made new ways to be. And she curated so much joy and happiness in this, her senior year. She shined so bright. I could not be prouder of her.
And the girls--they are back. Back from colleges down the highway, across the state, and a few states over.
Last night, they came to pick Mags up for dinner and I came out to greet them--
"I am hugging you in a robe still kind of wet from the dryer--"
"And that is okay," Maggie's friend assured me as she hugged on tight.
"--but I didn't want to miss a chance to see your face! I have missed you!"
Oh, the return. Maybe for a little, maybe for a lot, but I love it when life cycles back.
And so I make cinnamon muffins and leave them to cool on the counter. A gift to the beauty of life, how it goes on, how it leaves in one form but returns in another. There's where the hope is. And hope fills up this world.
People always ask me how I'm doing. About Mags growing. Graduating. If I'm sad, "the end of an era" they say. And it is. In every way it is the end of one thing. And I have been sad. Nostalgia bombards me at ever turn.
"Can we just store this in the back room?" Maggie says as she takes stock and purges her room, even now relentlessly pushing forward.
I store the tube of rolled up drawings. Seeing all that hard, active work standing lonely in a concrete corner, and unwittingly tears prick my eyes and I feel the leading edge of this coming goodbye.
"It is officially stored!" I chirp cheerfully when I return to her room and just barely don't get choked up.
But along with sad, along with nostalgic, I have also been so proud that I thought I would split at the seams. Maggie finishing senior year with 4 college classes already in the can. Maggie getting 2nd Team All Cenference. Maggie on Senior Night. On Signing Day.
I have been so relieved--the great gamble of her lacrosse career--sometimes traveling to a tournament with literally $20 in the bank and gift cards that we could not deviate from because that was how we were eating. Thank you, Jesus, that those gambles held out and we always had gas and enough to get by. So, so relieved.
Then sad all over again. Rod Stewart, seriously. Stop singing Forever Young, you're killing me, man.
And lest you fear we are on repeat from last year, and are both not processing this time--we cried buckets at the end of Gilmore Girls Round: A million.
"It's too soon." Lorelei says when Rory leaves for her job after college.
"It's just...too soon." And there I am, near Mags on the couch. Rocks stuck in my throat. Can't talk. Can't swallow. And Mags--the ugly cry. So much, so many tears. It was a day. Thank God for the absorptive power of blankets and cats.
"Mom!" She said just this week, "I can't even believe this will be my last summer home and next year I can work at Brewster Day Camp! Do you think I will love it? I think I will love it."
I think of summer camp work, so much behind the curtain. The relentless social nature of it for an introverted leaning human like Maggie. I think of Week 4 when it starts to feel like too much and everybody starts crying.
Of Week 5 when "New York arrives" with their glossy cars and impatience.
Week 7 when we all get sick.
Week 8 when we know there is still no where else we want to be, and we look madly forward to next summer's Week 1 all over again.
Summer camp work is a life you love in every single way. Love as a verb, the good and the stressful. I think of it--hot, relentless. Amazing.
"Yes," I tell her. "You will love it." And she gives a little squee! of summery joy.
The truth is, Maggie has always been going on 18. She was 6 going on 18. I worried that the age number would keep rising, but it never did. She just kept aging closer to her ideal.
Eight going on 18.
Twelve going on 18.
Fourteen going on 18.
And we are here.
"Mom!" she said to me on our way to a New Student event at Beloit College, "There is not a single part of me that does not just KNOW this is exactly the right choice!" We are here, at eighteen, with all of these blessings and all this certainty. After so many years of fear, striving, and worrying--it feels really, really, like sunshine.
So am I sad?
The answer is: not yet.
"The end of an era," people say.
Not only, I think.
Also the beginning of one.