My Empty Nest

It's not always empty.

Baby Goes to College

"In this great future you can't forget your past."

She was having a bad day, not a terrible one mind you, but she was feeling a little weepy. Too many books to read, too many papers to write, not enough sleep, and did she have a cold or something worse?

She called me on my cell phone because I wasn't at home. I was, as it turns out, at the UPS store mailing her a care package of tea, granola, chocolate, and Baby. I must have intuited her need for something more than food stuffs. So at the last minute I tucked an old friend of hers into the box.

She is my daughter, three months into her freshman year of college. Baby is the toy my daughter has had since birth. My daughter named her Baby when both of them turned 2. Baby looks more like a teddy bear than anything else, a pink, white, and blue creature made of a fabric reminiscent of parachute silk. Baby has a rattle inside of her so that she makes a sort of musical sound when you shake her. My daughter spent most of the first five years of her life shaking Baby. This habit of hers was more than a little jarring on my nerves, but it never failed to sooth my daughter. And Baby never seemed to mind.

Baby got lost on several occasions-in the house, at the park, or at a friend's house. But Baby always came back. As my daughter got older, Baby remained, not in the forefront of her life, but in the background: A touchstone, a reminder of impermanent permanence.

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And so it only seemed natural to me that she should have her childhood pal with her in Washington D.C., although I wasn't surprised that Baby stayed behind when we drove our daughter to college. She was very much in the "I'm 18, I don't need anything" mode. There was talk of skydiving, study abroad, the end of curfews, the usual stuff later day teenagers talk about. But in the days and weeks that followed, when I would look into my daughter's room, I felt a little bit of wistfulness emanating, not from me, but from Baby. The toy she left behind.

So that morning I risked my daughter's wrath and off Baby went in the overnight mail. I told her I was mailing her some things she might find useful. She said thanks (sniffle, sniffle-one was from congestion, the other was momentary melancholy); she was going to the library, then the health office to have whatever she had checked out. She would call me back later.

Later turned out to be the following day. She sounded like herself again. And by that I mean she sounded happy and in a hurry. "I've got a cold," she said, "that's all. The doctor said I should feel better in a day or two. And Mom, that was the best package ever. I can't believe you sent me Baby!"

"Well, I noticed that your roommate brought a teddy bear or two with her, so I figured it would be alright."

"It's more than alright. It's perfect." Then she said, "I've got to get to class now, art history. I love you Mom." Equilibrium restored-life was good again.

I love you too, Baby.

 

 

Madora Kibbe is a Christian Science practitioner and writer who lives in New York.

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