Erin came home from college today and life is back to normal . . . kind of. She'll be home until around the middle of January and that isn't nearly long enough for me. Having her sit across the dinner table from me tonight knowing she'll be there for several nights to come made me feel almost normal. In the back of my mind is lurking the knowledge that as normal as it may seem, nothing is "normal" anymore. This is home, but she doesn't live here. She texts when she has a bad day or a disappointing class, but I can't hug her. She has a life away from us that has nothing to do with us at all. She has friends we have never met and probably never will. That's our new normal. Sometimes I feel as if I'm standing outside my life watching it all go on without me. How did I lose all those years leading up to this? I can't get them back and I'm pretty sure the memories are pretty selective. Just last week she was born, yesterday she started kindergarten. A day which I failed as a parent, by the way. I have no picture of my only child on her first day of school ever. One of the milestones of her life and I missed it. I do remember her standing at the door telling us, "I've got it from here." I knew then she would never need me the same way again. I cried all the way to work.
So here I am, looking at this young woman sitting across the table from me and wondering if she has a clue how magical it all has been. And yes, Virginia, I do believe in Santa Claus. The proof is sitting across the dinner table from me.