Fall. It’s a time of year that always churns up a mixed bag of emotions for me. But probably not for the reasons you’d expect, like shorter days or school starting or the disappearance of Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandys.
For me, the end of summer represents something altogether different.
I mean, for all intents and purposes, I should be excited for the return of fall. And I am, on most levels, with its crisp days and skinny jeans and cozy sweaters. It’s the start of cooler running weather, football season, fall foliage and pie. Lots of pie. So who could possibly be sad about any of that?
For me, though, as much as autumn means all of those wonderful things, it also represents something very different in my little world. For me, it marks the time of year when my sweet little snowbird mother packs up her bags and makes her way back down to Florida for the rest of the year. It’s when our three-month-long playdate comes to an abrupt end. And lemme tell you, it doesn’t matter how old I am or how hectic my life might be, I still feel that twang of sadness when those suitcases come out of the closet and she starts packing up her bags.
See, that’s the thing, many of us, as we grow older, forge a different type of relationship with our parents—one that’s based on mutual respect, appreciation, and the ability to freely bitch and moan without judgment. (That last one is critical.)
We nurture and grow this beautiful, grown-up bond with our moms and dads as we become adults and parents ourselves—a totally different kind of connection than we had with them as kids. That’s because, as kids, all our parents represented to us was a giant pain in our ass. And us in theirs. As grownups, though, all of our awkward, self-centered kid feelings transform into admiration and respect once we truly understand what it’s like to live an adult life. It’s very cool, when you think about it.
To a lot of us, myself included, our parents (or in my case, my mom) become everything from a consigliore and our biggest cheerleader to a therapist and a companion. And since the relationship we have with them is so unique to any other relationship we have in our life, no one else can swoop in and take their place in the off season.
That’s why it’s so hard for me to watch my mom leave every season. Because when she goes, there’s a bit of an empty space in my heart until the spring when she comes back—a gap that FaceTime and texting helps to fill, but doesn’t plug up entirely.
Now this is not to say that I’m emotionally incapacitated once my mom leaves. Because I’m not. It’s not like I’m throwing tantrums on the kitchen floor. (Can you imagine?) I just feel her absence very acutely when she’s not around. And I know that there are a lot of us out there who are in the same situation with their snowbird parents or parents who live far enough away to need planes, trains, or automobiles to see each other.
Sure, I’m busy, I work, I have a house to take care of and kids to annoy; a husband and friends and a pretty full life; yet, even though I’m fully capable of juggling all those things, I still love it when she’s around.
And while our relationship with our parents is constantly evolving as we grow up—a lot like the relationship we have with our kids does as they age and mature—it’s still a reassuring feeling having them nearby to support us, even if we don’t rely on them in the same ways.
I mean, I know how important my grandmother was to my mother after my father died—that extra set of eyes and hands meant everything. Just having someone who understands what you’re thinking or feeling without having to explain yourself infuses you just enough to keep you going when you start to stall. Just that pile of neatly folded laundry on the edge of the bed that you didn’t expect is such a gift. Just a hug from someone you know loves you fully and completely.
So while we may not need them to tuck us in anymore at night (that would only be creepy at this point) or cut the crust off our bread (also a little creepy), just having them around is a comfort.
My point here is ultimately simple; there’s no one like our parents. No one we can trust in the same way or look to for guidance in the same way or feel love from in the same way. And in my case, there’s absolutely no one who can fold a perfectly ironed-looking dress shirt as well without actually using an iron. It’s uncanny, almost like she’s Criss Angel.
Hurry back, mom.
Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at select Whole Foods Market stores.