Brothers and Daughters Separated At Birth

I had a weird childhood. I know, everyone says that. But, I did. I was one of those kids that had weird things happen that they base after-school-specials on. Nowadays, it would be a Lifetime Movie – maybe even a mini-series – but back then my whole existence felt a little surreal. Like I was just sort of hanging on until the good part of the movie started.

I was a grownup from the age of 9, when my brother Dan was born. My mother was 9 days pregnant with him when his father was murdered by a guy on PCP. Any chance of a normal life for us bled out with Richard. With three jobs, and a fierce will to never accept charity, my mother somehow survived that dark time of grief, hopeful that better days were coming. Danny’s arrival February 19th was her reward and my salvation. He was the golden boy, cherished and loved by everyone that he met, with a smile that could eclipse the sun. My Great-Grandmother came to visit my mom and me and Danny when he was a few weeks old and asked if I was jealous not to have my mom all to myself and I said, “Certainly not. That’s MY baby.” And he was. He captured my heart from the moment I kissed his toes, and I made him fresh nanners with the Happy Baby Food Mill and we watched Charlie’s Angels together and made forts and played High/Fast. He cried when I left the house, and tried to go to school with me every morning. My poor bus driver Mrs. Detrich had to tell him he wasn’t big enough to go to school yet and he told her that he was a BIG BOY and she was taking his SISTOO and that was NOT NICE. I acted annoyed, but I was secretly delighted to have someone love me that much. He was the only certain thing in my life.

Now I have two daughters of my own, and each year I relish telling them the story of the day they were born. For Kelsea, it’s the play by play of the day including the lobster thermador that made it’s reappearance during labor as I projectile vomited it across my birthing room when the pain overwhelmed me (I slip that in as a little subliminal birth control) and all about the storm she was born in. Both literal and figurative. I say now that I fell out of my family tree as a tongue-in-cheek way to describe my painful, violent and very necessary split from the toxicity that just IS the family I was born into.

Except for Danny. He’s caught in the middle. Leaning way more away from me, but I understand. He’s a peacemaker and I am not. Kelsea is so much like him that I truly, to the depths of my soul, believe that God knew what was coming and gave her the personality she has as a gift to me. To remember MY baby each time she smiles, tells a joke the same way, raises an eyebrow, and calls me Mim, like Danny does our mom.

They were not raised near one another, but their cadence, demeanor, humor and compassion are as if they were separated at birth. It is both comforting and disconcerting at the same time. Like watching a ghost come around the corner.

In a few days she’ll head back to college after Winter Break. I wonder if her bus driver will let me on. I am a big girl, and taking her is not nice.

Beginnings… Again.

I’m inconsolable.

I’m heartbroken.

I’m depressed.

I’m the mom of a college sophomore.

Being the mom of a sophomore is harder for me than being a freshman mom, I think. As a freshman you secretly hope they’ll hate college and come home needing you desperately after realizing they couldn’t get through a week without you solving some problem. OK… only me? Yeah, I suspected as much. Thanks for the validation that I’m the worst mom ever. I mean, I guess I didn’t want that – but I would have been alright if it had happened. Wasn’t it enough that she was accepted to the University of her dreams? Did she actually have to GO?

I mean – we raised her to be smart, independent and ready to conquer the world. So why was I so disappointed when she did just that? Rather than cuddled up with me watching Pride and Prejudice, she’s the President of the National Honor Society, Social Secretary of her Sorority AND she made all A’s.  She only finds time to Skype once a week (if that) and she’s happy and well adjusted.

What the WHAT?!

We’ve just dropped her off at Trinity University (well, to be fair, followed her, were allowed to unload a bookshelf and then summarily dismissed… but I digress) and this time everything seemed just fine. No tears, except for her Dad, who had “the moment” before we left. Lord, who am I kidding? The man hasn’t stopped crying. I was thinking it felt somewhat familiar and wasn’t all that terrible. She’d been ready to go back for a few days and we weren’t all warm and fuzzy, truth be told. She was being a pain, actually. So, when we got there, we did the hug thing, and the photo thing, and I fussed over the things I fussed over last year – 10 minutes, tops. The car ride home was a breeze. I was pretty much thinking I was skating by this year without a meltdown.

Until I got home and started to unload the stuff she’d sent back with us, after emptying and sorting the storage unit she rented at the end of last year and dividing it into “move back into new Prassell Dorm Room” and “Send home with Mom & Dad.” She kept a lot of sorority things, decor things and I-have-no-clue-what-they-are-things… and sent back books with us.

Lots and lots of books, in fact. Well-loved, well-read classics from her childhood. Books my Daddy gave her before he died. Her entire hardbound collection of Harry Potter. Pride and Prejudice. Dog-eared copies of Roald Dahl and Shel Silverstein. The Odyssey. I’m digging through and thinking that we’ve made a mistake and grabbed the wrong things. But, no, she’s loaded them into the truck herself. I’m shocked. She’s sent back her Audrey Hepburn Autobiography, for pete’s sake. All the books that make her who she was before she left as a Freshman. She couldn’t leave without them last year. Wouldn’t thin them out when she saw her overwhelmed roommate. They were her friends, confidants, inspiration and solace when her world capsized a couple of times.

It hits me – hard – that they aren’t her security blanket as they were last year. They are now back in her room at home and she has a new shelf of books she loves – in her dorm. The ones she sent back with us aren’t the things completely define her now as they once did. She’s different. Richer, deeper and more experienced. New books pique her interest. New people covet her time.

She’s not coming home. She didn’t hate it. She doesn’t need me the same way she once did. She’s more than OK.

She’s a Sophomore.

She’s staying there and she’s sent home her books.