On an October day in 1999 I woke up early, in labor with my second son. I labored quietly all day, and less quietly all night, until with an immense exhausting effort I brought him forth shortly before dawn.
The midwife turned him over and I saw his face for the first time. We had no boys' names chosen, but I knew immediately what his name was.
I am awash in tactile memories from those early days: of walking the hospital hallways in the wee hours before he was born, of the warmth of him tucked in my encircling arm as we rested afterward, of the weight of him tucked in a sling, of the vanished smell of his milky breath.
He moved out today.
This is a normal healthy thing for my normal healthy teenager to do, I know. We are all kinds of lucky to be able to send him off like this. But I am going to sit here and leak a few more slow tears into this keyboard, because his departure is leaving a hole in my world. He has become such a great kid: thoughtful, reliable, interesting. Plus he laughs at my jokes, even the obscure ones.
The night that we left Scotland, 18 years ago now, our oldest son was in a state. He didn't remember life in the US, and he was worried about what he would be leaving behind. "Will there be toast in America?" he asked urgently. "Will there be bread in America? Will there be butter?" "Yes, darling," I told him. "There will be toast in America."
It became a family joke, a gentle reminder for our children that our fears are often unreasonable, no matter how fiercely they may burn. "I can assure you," I told my 18yo yesterday, as he stewed about what else he might need to pack, "that there will be toast in Mathlyville."
Only two children will sleep under my roof tonight, the youngest of whom is halfway to adulthood. I have presided over a crowded house and a noisy dinner table for so long that I feel adrift when I think about empty bedrooms and quiet meals. I don't know what the future holds, but it looks like it will involve less laundry.
So I am reminding myself today, too: it is reasonable and fitting to feel uncertain about journeying into the unknown. But there will be toast in America. And even butter.