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Maureen Anderson Headshot

The Back-to-School Blues

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Many years ago, after a softball game, a friend's wife passed around her new baby for the rest of us to hold and coo at. She'd seen me unable to take my eyes off the little bundle long enough to watch a single pitch, and I think I got more time with the newborn than anyone.

My eyes teared up immediately. The weightlessness! I didn't dare dream of a baby of my own someday. Too many unknowns. Besides, how could anyone -- anyone -- deserve such happiness? Did I rate that kind of privilege? I doubted it.

I saw Katie in a dream shortly before I found out about her. Not a daydream, mind you. No sense tempting fate. I saw her in my sleep -- a little girl, and perfect. When I looked up the meaning of other symbols in the dream, I was struck by this -- that everything about the labor and delivery and her would be so easy.

It was. It has been.

Well, except for letting her go. That's another story. We were arm in arm recently, saying goodbye to her bedroom on the morning we left for college, when I reminded her how many sweet dreams she'd had. How many had come true! Sweet dreams indeed.

I've waxed smug on this blog about the importance of having a few things you want to make happen in the world besides a happy family. When a child grows up, after all, you're going to need something else to do.

What a crock, I've been thinking. Nothing can compete with the fun of having Katie around.

Which is true. That chapter is mostly closed.

Would it surprise you that after less than a week, I could imagine being happy again? Someday. Not today. But someday. That's a start.

It happened twice, actually, that first week.

The first time was watching our pal Dustin help my husband and me perfect how our voices sound on the radio. That's part of my work? How fun! Dustin's such a pro and he loves his job so much I found myself getting caught up in the excitement of working in radio all over again.

The second time was being on the phone with Skip, our affiliate relations guy -- and Mike, the executive we work with at Radio America. In some ways it was the highlight of my career. I felt completely at home sharing my passion -- with suits, a term I use with affection -- about the difference I want to make in the world. But this was a meeting -- something I fled corporate America to get away from -- and it was fun.

Remember my suggestion to cling to what's familiar in the midst of change? We're doing that. We started running again, and we got back to work. But there's a big hole in our routine where time with Katie used to be -- and I can't get over the quiet. Who knew quiet could be so deafening?

So, what do we do about that? Nothing. Which is, I suddenly realize, the most difficult thing of all.

A line from my essay about Kate's first day of kindergarten comes to mind: "The grief I feel at Katie's growing independence is tempered only by knowing it could be worse." At least I savored those eighteen years...

Apparently, I'll always be a kindergarten mom in recovery. Then again, I had a front-row seat to an amazing show: I got to watch Katie grow up.

She helped me do the same.

Now, I have a brand-new template for dreaming big dreams, and making them come true.

Thanks, kiddo!