What They Don’t Tell You About Moving Away from Your Mom

“You look just like your mom,” is the greatest compliment I could ever receive.

It has been over two hundred days since my mother, and the rest of my family, packed up their lives and moved to good ole’ Knoxville, Tennessee. Two hundred plus days of living 770 miles from the woman who gave me life. Although I’m sure many young women can say this, my mom and I have a bond like no other. She has wiped my butt at six months old and at sixteen years old. She has given me Tylenol and she has given me chemo. She has made me everything from grilled cheese with tomato and bacon, to protein shakes to add more weight to my ninety-pound frame. Believe me when I tell you that my mother is the strongest woman I know. I’m lucky to be her daughter and to have gained some of her strength throughout these twenty-two years. So, when she told me our family was making the move to Knoxville, without me, I figured it would be a cake walk compared to the trials and tribulations of our life together. Unfortunately, no amount of strength could prepare me for the emptiness I feel from not being able to see my mama every day.

I am so grateful that she is alive and well. Trust me when I tell you that I do not take her for granted. I am in no way comparing the distance between New York and Tennessee with the distance from Heaven to Earth. But, Lord is this hard! Sure, there’s days I don’t even think about it until bedtime. When I want to go down the hall and kiss her forehead as she lay asleep on the couch, Blue Bloods as her lullaby. When I’m headed to school and I think to check if she needs anything on my way home. When I’m going grocery shopping for things that were always in a Tupperware container in the fridge just two hundred short days ago. Despite how sad this all sounds to me as I re-read, I understand that these were all things I expected. What I didn’t expect is something that haunts me each time we hang up the phone. That is, guilt. Not mine, hers. Mama flew south for the winter and left her baby up north to finish school and make a name for herself. And she’s not sure if she made the right choice. When I call her to cry a little, to vent about how hard life can be, I know it takes everything in her not to blame herself. Not to apologize, not to think it could have all been prevented if she had just stayed; or if I had just gone with her. No one prepares you for that. No one prepares you for guilt, or doubt, or uncertainty.

My sweet, sweet Mama Bear. Life is hard. But, it’s not hard because I’m here and you’re there. It’s not hard because you bought a house and decorated a room for me just in case I change my mind. It’s not hard because you have St. Patrick’s Day two days early so I won’t miss your corned beef and cabbage. It’s not hard because you save twelve episodes of our show just to watch it with me during my next visit. It’s not hard because you send me cards and socks with wine bottles on them and pillowcases with my favorite quotes. It’s hard because…it just is. Life is hard with you and life is hard without you. But, having you as my mama makes it easier. Maybe we’ll be together for my twenty-third birthday. And if we’re not, maybe we won’t cry about it. But even if we do, just know that the tears are not for you. I do not resent you for showing me how to fly on my own. I love you even more for that.

Maybe someday I will live in Tennessee. God only knows. But no matter where I am, who I’m with, or what I’m doing, home is always you.