We left her at the airport the day after the apples in our favorite orchard were ready to be picked. Two days later, the peaches on our tree would begin to yield to our tug. Before she left, I was already starting a tally of what she would miss. Or maybe, If I am honest, it was more about what I would miss.
My daughter, who arrived in this world with eyes wide open and determined to take in fully the life laid out before her, was more ready to leave than I was to let her go. Even if it meant flying over the ocean to begin college in a city that she had only visited for one rather hectic day eight years ago. It was not the drop-off I would created if I could create it for us, but it was fitting for the way my daughter has chosen to take on this life she has been given. My winged girl always knowing how to soar, even when it was a struggle for me to release her.
I spent half of yesterday, three days after her departure, cleaning her room. The house was quiet. My husband at work, my son at school, only the pets to keep complete solitude at bay. It took me the better part of the morning. I went through two handfuls of rags and filled the washer three times to release the dust of more than a dozen years from the blankets and forgotten garments wedged underneath and on the side of her bed. Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but nearly.
I took my time placing the gray flannel sheets with snowflakes on her bed. Pulling the edges tight around a mattress that would not be slept in before December. I nearly forgot about summer as I piled on her holiday pillows and folded the colors of Christmas at the foot of her bed. Before she left, my daughter asked if I would go through her binders and folders from her last year of high school, but I told her I would do more than that. Instead of leaving her room untouched, just how she would have kept it had she been home to use it, I knew I needed to clean it. The release had to be as full and complete as I could make it.
I didn’t want her to feel held back. Even from 3,000 miles away. Even from London, I knew she would feel my tug. So I cleaned and tried to think about how much she would appreciate coming home to order free of dust. To having her closet and shelves sorted, and her desk and bureau free of clutter. Her bed made with clean sheets meant to keep in the warmth.
Despite the calendar reminding me that we still had nearly three weeks of summer left, I tugged the air conditioner out of her window, and swiped the dust cloth across its surface before I tucked it into the newly vacuumed corner of her closet. I noticed the gray film on the window frames, grabbed a clean cloth and the glass cleaner to wipe them clear.
It was nearly noon by the time I untied the sashes from her curtains and pulled them to the center of her closet. To keep the dust out I told myself, but all I could see was a closed space. I lowered her windows by a couple of inches, left their shades up to keep the light in, then left my daughter’s door wide open as I exited her space. To keep the air fresh, I told myself.
During the night I woke often, as has become my habit this summer, to peer through the crack of my bedroom door to look for the light in her room. I didn’t see it until morning, when I knew it was time to get up and greet the day in whatever form it presented to me. I walked passed by daughter’s room and the door that had not been closed during the night, with a new load of laundry in my hands trying not to think about how different the lines of clothes would look outside drying in the sun.