I learned about Robert Browning’s paired poems Meeting at Night and Parting at Morning in 11th grade with Mrs Braswell. This morning, all these years later, their titles echoed in my head because – for the first time ever – both Andre and I had to leave the house before our children left for school. In fact, we would both be gone before the older child woke up. They had to get up, get ready and get to school entirely on their own.
At any rate, when the titles of these poems ran through my mind this morning, I wasn’t thinking about 11th grade or Mrs Braswell: I was thinking about my kids. Today, for the first time ever, both Andre and I had to leave for work before the children left for school – which meant we also had to leave earlier than we normally do – which meant we all had to be on our A game.
Last night, we packed lunches, checked breakfast provisions, laid out clothes. This morning, Andre was gone before I even woke up. Half an hour later, I was up, getting ready. I gathered my things, then kissed Mr. 11 awake, told him to brush his teeth & hair, remember his lunch and make sure Mr. 13 woke up in time for school. Then I left.
We’ve left them alone in the evenings plenty of times with (almost) no qualms, but somehow this was different. Would Mr. 11 actually comb his hair? Would his brother wake up? Would either of them eat breakfast? Would they remember their lunches? Leave on time? Lock the door? These questions would remain unanswered until I got back from work. Would they let themselves in after school? What if Mr. 11 lost his key? Would they feed the cats? Would they feed themselves?
I vowed to go home right after my classes ended, just in case, but a teacher in my department was having a very bad day, and I stayed to help them calm down. The kids had another 45 minutes alone.
As I finally gathered my things, I realized that I hadn’t worried about my children at all during the conversation: I’d been focused on the problem at hand. And when I walked in the door, I knew immediately that everything was fine. Mr. 11 had remembered his tutoring session; Mr. 13 was doing his homework. All the keys were where they were supposed to be. The kitchen counter provided evidence that they had eaten (if not tidied up).
And just like that, we’ve passed another milestone. Over dinner, it was clear that they were tickled at this new bit of independence – Mr. 11 says I should tell you that I was too worried and they were awesome. He’s not wrong.
To be fair to their nervous mother, they did forget to feed the cats.