Our dog, Essie, has “empty nest” syndrome. Our youngest daughter was safely deposited in her dorm on the campus of her new school last Friday. I should mention that Essie is actually my daughter’s dog. She was given to her as an “instead of a car” gift on my daughter’s sixteenth birthday and they have been inseparable since.
The week before our daughter’s departure, Essie slept in the den, keeping guard over a pile of things that waited to be loaded into the car. “Don't worry, Essie,she won't forget you,” I said. When we were packing the car, and Essie paced fretfully between the car and the house, I told her, “Don't worry, she'll be fine without you.” As we were leaving the house, and Essie was put in the backyard to wait for the dogsitter, all I could muster was, “Don't worry.”
There are things I won't say to Essie. I won't tell her that, while I waited for my husband to park the car and for Baby Girl to pick up her room key, a woman, whose name I don't know but who was kind enough to help us unload the car, must have sensed something in my face as I stood alone keeping watch over the mountain of possessions. She said, “They are long days but short years aren't they?” and I had to bite my lip to keep from crying.
I didn't tell Essie that once we were finished unpacking and setting up her dorm room, and our daughter gave us a final hug, the hug was a little tighter than usual. As I squeezed her to me, her childhood flashed by—the tiny baby with dimples and a rosebud mouth, a happy-go-lucky preschooler, a gangly elementary school kid who lip-synced to Avril Lavigne—and when I opened my eyes, there stood a beautiful, confident, capable young woman.
We made a few jokes, and I said the requisite, “remember to use the buddy system, always know where you are, and keep your cellphone charged!” Then it was over. My husband and I were in the car driving away, keeping up appearances and trying to be brave for each other.
Now I am trying to reassure Essie. “Don't worry,” I tell her, “she'll be back for Fall Break. Two months isn't so long, is it?” I hope I am convincing, but I'm not so sure.