Apple could set up a commercial shoot in my home office and my daughter’s dorm and feature us in a commercial highlighting how FaceTime brings together parents and their college freshmen. Sniff, sniff. Wipe the tears.
My hearts skips a beat when I hear the familiar high-pitched ring on my desktop computer. “Hello!” I say, beaming a close-up into the computer’s pushpin-sized camera. Not that I need to put my face that close to the camera – she can see me just fine sitting at an arm’s length distance – but I do anyhow, just so she can get a good glimpse of her mom. If I could reach my arms through the screen and squeeze that little bundle of joy, I would.
Instead, I watch her, full screen. I listen to her as she rambles on about classes, a party, this friend or that friend, or having just cleaned her dorm or finished her laundry. The latter makes me smile. She’s laundering her sheets and I’m surprised at how good that makes me feel. Really? Knowing she’s not a complete, utter slob makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside? Yes, in fact, it does. Knowing she scrubs her toilet and vacuums her floors makes me smile, too. Gold star for me.
I gauge the sound of her voice and I watch her body language, because after 19 years of shadowing my daughter’s every mood, facial expression, body language and verbal cues, I think I know her better than she knows herself. I’m her sixth sense, really, and I wonder if that feels to her like a safety net or an obnoxious mosquito that keeps pestering her.
Sometimes, I think I’m the mosquito.
Friends wander in and out of her room. “Hi!” a few of them call out, peeking in front of her camera.
“It’s my mom,” she explains, matter-of-factly. I get to put faces to names and that makes me feel good, too.
The Internet and Apple technology make the empty nest transition a bit more bearable for me. It takes the sharp edges off of this prickly stage in life, and even allows us to do normal mother/daughter activities, like shopping, even though we’re 12 hours away from each other.
Via iMessage she sends me links to view dresses online, which I click on and tell her yay or nay.
“Mom, you’ll like this dress,” she says. “And it’s only $30.”
I click on the link and a basic black dress pops up. “Yeah, that’s cute.
“Or this one,” she says, and ding, ding, the iMessage pops up with another link to another dress.
“Never mind. Out of stock,” she answers.
Ding, ding. Another link.
“Do you like this one?” she asks.
I’m paying, so I get the final stamp of approval, and this one is a no-go.
“It’s on sale, $19.99,” she counters.
“There’s a reason it’s marked down to $19.99. Too much cleavage and your boobs will fall out the moment you drape your arm over your best friend’s shoulder for the first selfie of the night.”
“Oh, my gosh mom, no they won’t.”
“Yep, they’ve probably gotten complaints about this dress and lots of returns,” I continue with a chuckle. “That’s why it’s on sale.”
Yeah, she’s really missing me now.
She moves on to a new link, but eventually she starts making flashcards for biology and I start writing a news release. We’re visible on each other’s screen, but neither of us is talking. We’re just there, and that feels good.
Every so often my eyes wander to her face in the corner of my screen and I smile at her familiar pursed lips – a dead giveaway that she’s in serious concentration mode.
I guess that’s what I miss most about my kids being away at school – I miss their there-ness.
Wait, is there-ness a word?