There’s a sparkling green bow hair-clip on my kitchen counter-top; silently, it reminds of the day Shania and I found it in a boutique at Coco-Walk in Miami. I remember, Shania quickly put it on her hair and did a twirl !
Every time Shania is gone for a few days, I see this green sparkly bow, or her little flowery slippers, the stuffed toys on my bed, or her plastic juice glasses, that remind me of her big, beautiful smile – and her all-encompassing hug.
Next year, my seventeen-year old, Daiyaan, is likely to head off to college. While preparing for this inevitability, I cannot imagine when Shania (7) will move away from home!
Several of my friends have recently started experiencing their children leaving homes and heading off to college. This “withdrawal”, when a child is not physically present in your home any more, is a tough physical and mental experience to deal with, wherever you may be located.
Sometimes, I wonder how my mother dealt with this emptiness, the day I left home. With extended family and friends surrounding her, I wonder, if it was any easier or more difficult to cope with.
Last weekend, I talked to my sister, whose only child left for college recently, creating an empty-nest for them. She described how, the large glasses he drank milk from, sit on the shelves unused, and how the dinner that’s saved for him, goes un-eaten and thrown away. There’s no longer a reason to rush back home in the evening – or a need to check-in and see how the day was, with a third person in the house.
First generation immigrants, sometimes, have a slightly varied perspective when a child leaves their home, to build her own life; often, they view their children as manifestation of all their hopes and as a fruit of all of their immigration “struggles.”
The complicated nature of immigration, makes it difficult to question the fairness of this burden on our children. However, I know many, in our minds, feel a special link with our children who were not born in the same land as we were. There is an expectation that, by osmosis, these children understand our struggle and often, the culture or religion we left behind.
Even if our children are completely “westernized”, they empathize with our habits of drinking milky-sugary tea in the morning; or often converse with us in their accented version of our native language. Somehow, they “get us”; they tolerate our listening to high-pitched music in the car; when we pray in one direction or another – sometimes, they take part with us, or at least don’t look at us with complete incredulity.
As if, they are our bridge to this new land, and a bridge to all our future aspirations.
When this “bridge” moves away, there maybe an emptiness in our lives that’s not easily explainable.
I know families, when their children moved away to build their lives, eventually, the parents followed them to far flung places. In some ways, their immigration continued, from little towns of Nebraska or New Mexico where they started their journey, to some new destination like New York or Nevada.
On this Saturday morning, I await Shania to wake up from her sleep and snuggle with me for a few more minutes and watch cartoons together. While Daiyaan may leave next year, creating her own vacuum, for a few more years, I want to continue to build memories with my other “bridge”. We will go to some new store, where we will buy our sparkly hair clips, enjoy a DreamWorks movie, or simply admire a beautiful rainbow together, after the rain.