She didn't walk me to the station to say good bye and give me a long, warm hug and tell me how much she would miss me. In fact, she practically shoved me out of the house, slamming the door behind me and leaving me standing on the porch, suitcase in one hand, alone in the light rain, mist coating my hair and face with tiny droplets of water. My hair hung in loose tendrils over my face.
The station was only a few blocks away, easy enough to get to, and I guess she assumed I wouldn't mind walking. She wasn't wrong, but I wished she had offered me a ride, one that I could graciously decline so I could tell her I didn't mind walking.
I told myself it was so that she wouldn't have to see me go, so she wouldn't cling onto me and beg me to stay, that her distant attitude was because she would miss me, not because she wouldn't. She loved me, she just didn't understand me.
She was angry with me. Of course she was, I was her last child and I was leaving her alone in this little, godforsaken town to go off to a college in California instead of the small, local one she had pushed on each of my older brothers and then me. Each one of us had declined and found some other college in some other state and she had taken it like a personal blow as she watched each of us go off to greener pastures in some far off city that she would probably never visit unless we begged her to.
I checked my watch, rubbing it against my shirt to remove the sheen of water that had settled on it. The watch had been a gift from her: engraved on the back of the silver face, it said: "My love for you is timeless." She had always loved those kinds of puns.
I was borrowing her suitcase, too: almost nothing I was bringing with me was mine, including the wad of cash she had shoved into my hand in case I lost my credit card, and the little succulent who she had named Misty she had given me (in case I got lonely, she said).
That had been weeks earlier, when she was still fussing over anything and everything - did I pack enough clothes and were they warm enough and maybe I wanted a new sweater because my old one had holes in it and where would I live and what if I had bad roommates and please remember to study and don't go to any parties. She had still been proud I had gotten into the college instead of mad I was leaving her, she was still excited that I was "going out to see the world" instead of sad she wouldn't be able to see me.
I wanted to tell her I would miss her too. That I wasn't eager to leave, that I was running towards college and education and independence and not away from her. I wanted to tell her that I loved her, but I needed to do this for myself. But how could I, when she was dithering over this and that and everything and by the time I realized she didn't want me gone, she had already mostly stopped talking to me.
I stood on the porch for a moment longer, looking out at the sunflowers that I had planted with her and the little bulbs that had multiplied as the years went by. The sky was grey, a flat sheet of dull canvas stretched above me, but I remembered when it was a brilliant blue, the sun shining as I chased my brothers through the yard, the way no time seemed to pass under that clear sky, the sun browning our faces and shoulders until suddenly it was over and it was raining again. The way as the years passed, my brothers disappeared one by one, leaving us like grown up birds flying from the nest, until it was just me and my mother.
Now I was going out on my own too. No, not on my own, I was following my brother's footsteps. I picked a sunflower and looped it through the suitcase handle so it was easier to carry them both. In the gloomy, dark day, the bright yellow petals almost seemed to glow.
There was a time when the five of us - me, my mother, and my brother would sit in the garden, picking flowers and weaving the stems together to form wreaths and clowns. We would pick up flexible twigs and leaves and my mother would show us how to twist them together into baskets and nests. We would leave them in the trees that bordered our house, hoping a bird would settle in them. Now, those same nests are empty and tattered and blown away.
I imagined I was inside an egg that's just started to crack open, poking my head out into the world. No, not an egg, a young bird that's just learned to fly.
But why did I have to fly away? Maybe my mother was right. Maybe we could stay together and I could turn around, let the train leave the station without me. I would go back inside and my mother would be surprised but happy, and we would drink tea and at first we'd both feel guilty and regretful but it would fade over time. I could help her run her basket shop, and we would be happy together, just like always.
No, I told myself. This was something I had to do for myself. No bird could stay in the same nest forever, and neither could I. You could only stay young for so long, and it was time to grow up.
"Good bye," I whispered to the house. "I'll miss you." A breeze whistled through the trees in reply, rustling my hair.
Then, suitcase in hand, I headed to the station.