Her Closet

A new school year. It always brings the memory. Letting her go.

I knew the day was coming. She was my firstborn.

She changed my life in so many beautiful ways. She was born on this day in 1983.

There was no question about her going to college. She chose a school that was hundreds of miles from home. I understood that need to make it on your own.

It wasn’t really going to be an empty nest that year, she would be leaving behind a perfectly adorable younger brother. Still…I sought out a possible band aid for the separation anxiety. I went back to work in her senior year of high school. It might provide a distraction.

My husband and I dropped her off on campus. It happened to be the same campus where my father said good bye to me so many years before. Sweet irony.

We helped get her settled in her dorm, met her new roommate, watched as she got called away to a mandatory orientation meeting. We put on that happy, positive face, told her how proud we were, wiped a few tears and said our farewells.

We held it together on the 3 hour drive home. So far, so good.

When we got home, I went to her now vacant room to put a few things in her closet.

And then I saw them.Ballet 4 yr

Hanging on one side were two outfits. One was her prom gown. The other was a ballet costume she had worn when she was a 4 year old dance student.

I thought about how quickly the time between those 2 dresses had gone, and I let myself break down.

These were the tears I’d held back for so long, the ugly cry, the one that makes you sob, the one that reaches your soul, the one I’d been avoiding in the attempt to appear strong for her.

I missed her then, like I still miss her now. She never really came home again. I knew that in my heart; I had done the same thing. It didn’t make it easier.

Happy Birthday, baby girl.

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88 Responses to Her Closet

  1. I’m not at this stage in parenting yet but the truth of the emotion you convey really resonated with me. When I left home at 17 to attend university, I knew I would never go home again – so did my parents who promptly gave my bedroom to my youngest brother. I fully expect my children to do the same when they leave home – though I will maintain rooms for them. I think we know we have some our jobs as parents properly when our fledglings are not only ready but capable of leaving the nest and soaring. That won’t make it any easier for me emotionally, I’m sure, and clearly knowing you had done such a great job of raising an independent young woman didn’t help you emotionally either. It truly all does pass so quickly.

    • One interesting note..she never saw me break down in tears, and thought somehow that it was easy to let her go. I shared this info with her years later, she had no idea, but will some day, no doubt. It all comes around, one of the many sweet things of life that we can’t take for granted. ☺

  2. Erika Kind says:

    So touching, Van. I totally hear you! Such moments are like the opener of an outlet. Beautiful and liberating moments.

  3. Bugsmetwo says:

    oh Happy Birthday to your daughter. Our daughters share the same birthday day. My oldest went off to college this year as well. She happens to be across the world in Europe and her leaving was waving at the TSA line at the airport. Still bittersweet. I can’t wait for her to come home in 3 months!

    • Hi Bugs, and welcome. I understand what you might be feeling…even though for me it was 2001. By September 11 of that tragic year, I was sure I would go back and retrieve her, as if I could keep her safe at home. Happy ‘birthing’ day to you. ☺

  4. Sue Vincent says:

    That brought a tear or two, Van. They never do come home again,do they? Not really, not even if they move back in for a while… but then, they never really leave either…

  5. nimi naren says:

    This is so beautiful. I choked up…I have only a few years to go…

  6. Amy says:

    so touching. I know exactly how you felt. My oldest daughter was born in 1983 and even though she only went to college an hour away, I felt the same way. Little did I know how far she’d eventually travel (China) and that she would never be back in our town. We are still close, despite the distance, but how hard it was in the beginning. Happy birthday to your daughter.

  7. What a tear jerker, Van. My girl was born in ’83 too and I have a few princess pictures that I cherish. It’s painful to set them free from the nest and wonderful to have raised children that can fly. 🙂

  8. Nurse Kelly says:

    You just completely decimated me! This is the first year my daughter moved out to live on campus. But – she is only a half hour away. I’m off today, and going to see her later on to have dinner with her as a matter of fact. And my son is younger, and still home – sounds exactly like your memories here. The thought has definitely crossed my mind that this might be it, as far as her moving out for good, but I push it aside. Can’t go there yet. I just keep focusing on her happiness and excitement at school, and that sustains me. What a beautiful post, Van. Thank you, and happy birthday to your daughter xoxo

    • Oh…I’m sorry for the reaction this elicited, Kelly, so many have responded like you. It’s the joy and tragedy of love and loss. The good news…we all survive it, and come to relish the sweetness of a relationship that brings us to that emotional place. ❤️ Thanks for the birthday wishes, and enjoy your dinner with her. ☺ Hugs to you.

      • Nurse Kelly says:

        No apologies necessary at all, my friend! I love “feeling those feelings” you stirred, because they help me with the process of change. And you are so right about the two opposing feelings existing together at the same time – so much emotion – but capable of really making you feel alive as well. Hugs to you, too! xoxo

      • It’s all part of the human experience, and I wouldn’t change anything. ☺ Thanks for understanding, Kelly 💕

  9. C.E.Robinson says:

    Van, Happy Birthday to your daughter. I know about those tears. A mixture of happy & sad. Seeing 2 sons go off to college. That was years ago, but your thoughts brought the memories back. Chryssa

    • For me it was 2001, and it seems like yesterday, Chryssa. You never forget those feelings, and are grateful for their depth. Thanks for adding your thoughts here, and for the birthday wishes. It’s always an emotional day for me.💕

  10. Silver Threading says:

    How touching and beautiful this was, Van. I am crying from the feelings you stirred up in me. Happy birthday to your beautiful daughter. ❤

  11. That was a lovely post Van. It must have been so hard to have kept it together in front of your daughter. I hope she has a very Happy Birthday! 🙂

  12. Erica Herd says:

    Heartfelt, tender piece. Thank you for sharing this.

  13. amommasview says:

    Can’t tell you how much this touched me. It’s just about 5am now and my little girls slept over in our bed last night. Can’t imagine her grow up and leave and yet I know both of them will be out of the house sooner than I want them to be. Letting go… Hardest thing ever. Now excuse me, I need to cuddle my little princess… 😘

  14. So powerful that I felt every word. “These were the tears I’d held back for so long, the ugly cry, the one that makes you sob, the one that reaches your soul, the one I’d been avoiding in the attempt to appear strong for her.”

    That’s profound.

  15. AmyRose🌹 says:

    Van, the tears that you got going over at Petals are now running down my cheeks. How my Heart aches for your sadness. Goodbyes are always so hard. BIG (((HUGS))) coming your way!!! Love, Amy ❤

  16. Ann Koplow says:

    I love this post, Van. ❤

  17. George says:

    Beautiful, Van. I have three daughters myself and I understand how much it hurt to let go. I remember how difficult it was to drop them off at college and unlike you, I wasn’t able to hold back the tears, but that’s not unusual for me…:) You expressed the feelings of so many parents who are so happy for the lives their children have but sometimes miss those moments when they were young and in our arms.

    • My hope is that young parents take this stuff into account as they go about their busy lives, George. I love that you cried. How sweet is that ? My own dad did not, but we had a moment, and I understood ! ❤️ My husband is a hugger…and she felt the emotion there, but no tears.

  18. markbialczak says:

    It was time, yes, Van, but that didn’t make it any easier. Happy Birthday to you always-baby girl, my friend. Thanks for sharing this wonderful back-to memory.

  19. So heartwarming! Beautiful post!!

  20. This was heart wrenching to read. We’ve been through it, and it never gets easier.

  21. Pingback: My Picks Of The Week #41 | A Momma's View

  22. Beautiful, I felt tears building up in my eyeballs! What a great metaphor for the time passed.

  23. lbeth1950 says:

    Oh Van. How lovely. Happy Birthday to your girl and congrats for being one of Momma’s picks.

  24. writerinsoul says:

    I don’t have children, Van, but it occurred to me as I read your heartfelt post and the comments that the irony is she could go away & build a good life – while you two remain close – because you did a good job. Children can’t leave or they go away & never look back when their parents have done a crappy job.

    I embrace the feeling life too but sometimes it can be overwhelming, yes?

    • For sure, Colette. This week was a perfect example. Her birthday, so special to me; I was still mourning her loss,and had just come back from her campus to celebrate her day on 9/10/2001. When the towers fell on 9/11, I just wanted to go retrieve her, as if I could keep her safe.Every year since, I watch all or part of the Today show replay, and go to that deep place all over again. I hurt for their whole generation, who will never feel secure again. Overwhelmed ? Just a bit.💔

  25. I have 9 kids! I loved this, so beautiful! We lived in saudi and my two sons left for school to the US! I could fee it all as i read Excellent!

  26. You liked one of my comments. This brought me to your blog. I’m glad. I am following.

  27. Aww….*Bracing myself for my turn* Gulp.

  28. April says:

    This just makes me cry!! I am not looking forward to this moment, and am the one crying at every movie where a kid goes to college!! I guess it is bittersweet to see your little ones grow up and become adults.

  29. Rhio says:

    Lovely post. Your daughter is the same age as me and this year my daughter is off to high school. Not the same I know, but I’m already feeling anxious about it. Time has seemed different to me since I’ve become a mum, it’s so surreal. It seems impossible that it was 11 years ago that my daughter was born, and now she’ll be off to high school this year. I know college is going to be that much harder. I will want her to go to the best one for whatever she wants to do, even if that’s miles from me, and at the same time not want to be apart from her.

    • It’s such a balancing act…that hope for their success and the desire to keep them safe and close. It never really ends. She is married now, and her husband would do better to relocate across country to California. I’m happy for his career success, but will be very sad if they choose to move that far. Thanks, Rhio. Be assured, you will get through it all. 💕

  30. autumnhm says:

    I think about the moment my daughter leaves a lot and I know it will be hard. I had a hard time when she transitioned to her big girl bed so I can only imagine what a mess I will be when she becomes an adult. Beautiful piece!

    • Thanks so much. I had the same anxiety at each stage…even the big girl bed. (To be honest…even when she moved out to her own room ! ) I found it helped to be involved in a way that distracts you. I went back to work, and worked with a lot of 20 year olds…it helped with the transition. Appreciate the compliment. ❤️

  31. I was born in 1983, too. I wonder if my mom had a similar reaction when I left for college.

  32. koolaidmoms says:

    We are on the cusp of letting our first born go. It has made me extra sentimental and also trying to pay attention to each little detail in the days. I want to hold on to this time and remember all the things leading up to it. I have a year yet but I know it will go so fast.

    • I wish you all the best. A kool aid mom will know how to handle it all, I believe. I was proudly one of those ! You are wise to pay extra attention now…you won’t regret that choice. Thanks so much. 💝

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