The last kiss goodbye unashamedly took place on a crowded sidewalk along Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. Funny, I didn’t picture it being like that, but there it was. My daughter was starting her college life with a service program that connected her with hundreds of eager fellow freshmen. We arrived early at the designated meeting place.
I held her close as I held my breath, feeling my throat tighten. She caught my eyes welling up. It was time for her to go. She confidently mingled with her new cohorts. Over her shoulder she said she’d call that night when she got back to the dorm.
I held my husband’s hand as we walked back to the van for the ride home. Next to us strode our teenaged son — there for moral and muscular support for his sister’s move up to the 18th floor of the dorm. During school months now our youngest of three will be an “only child”, a position he deems a tremendous perk of birth order.
Speaking of births, bittersweet occasions such as these bring instant mother recall. We can usually remember a first kiss — I met my daughter after 6 hours of labor and delivery. And if I could have pre-planned my first kiss to greet her, I probably would not have pictured a hospital delivery room, but there it was.
So it’s not so much the place, or what we wore, or the day of the week, that matters most. It’s the love. For we remember moments.
It is natural that we greet each other with a holy kiss, as St. Paul’s epistles often recommend.
These are moments of truth for parents: as the young adult child moves on, parents must move on too. We know we are crossing a certain threshold where the relationship changes permanently. But drenched in love, trust, and hope, it is a holy moment — a visible sign of an invisible reality.
A long line of obvious milestones prepared us for this day. They stretch back through high school to pre-school. Smaller but equally vivid memories marked the passage of time: final exams and SATs, graduation, award ceremonies, drivers’ ed., job interviews, going to camp, sacraments, first crushes, sports victories and losses, birthday cakes, recitals, broken bones, and broken hearts. As the hugs and kisses multiply, the bond between parent and child is unmistakable.
Yet, some milestones were less obvious. Looking back, how many “last” moments did we miss not realizing they were the “last” at the time? Like the last time we pushed them on a swing? Or the last time we had to help shampoo their hair? Or check over their homework? Or sat on their beds as they prayed their nightly prayers? Had we known those moments were the “last”, we might have celebrated them a bit more.
Somewhere along the way, our children grew up and we slowly did what we were supposed to do to raise and educate them. Still, these thresholds cause us to wonder: did we say and do all that was needed? Hopefully. Usually, we did our best given our circumstances at the time. Now we must leave the rest to God and His providence. In letting a child go and grow up, we must also let go of missed opportunities and our mistakes along the way.
We drove home from Boston. Later, I crawled into bed making sure the phone was on my nightstand. I wondered if she would call. I’m a seasoned parent who knows college students are not known for going to sleep as early as I do. So I kissed my husband, offered a prayer, and turned out the light.
I hadn’t been dozing very long when the phone rang. “Hi… Mom?” That’s my girl.
What a gift to offer: one more kiss goodnight.