To reduce the risk of that aching goodbye, follow the instructions below:
1. Have one last meal at that little noodle place around the corner. Laugh with your parents when they tease you about the mac n cheese and carrot sticks you’re going back to.
2. Fold everything you’re going to need and place it neatly inside the suitcase. Remember, procrastination is key in this step.
3. Try to fall asleep and end up staying up until 3 am, staring at your deserted room. 4. Marvel at how much an empty room holds.
5. Wake up with a jolt when mom comes back in from walking the dog and takes off her puffy army green parka. When she asks about your sleep, lie and tell her it was great.
6. When it’s time to leave, take one last look around.
7. Hug your dog and ruffle the fur on his back. Whisper to him that you’ll be back soon and silently curse the airport regulations on pets.
8. When your dad comments on how heavy your luggage is, assure him that you exercise occasionally and will thus be fine (exaggerate here: e.g. if you actually work out 10 minutes per week, add up all the other times you could have gone to the gym but didn’t).
9. Sit through a silent car ride broken only by your dad’s phone, which he silences. 10. Closely study your parents’ faces in the rear view mirror.
11. At the airport, get out of the car as slowly as possible.
12. Feel your stomach knot up and go on a Six Flags ride when your mom says that this is as far as they can go.
13. Hug your parents. Don’t complain even though your dad’s hug might crush your ribs.
14. Joke that you’ll miss the dog the most out of everyone.
15. Try to disregard the tears in your mother’s eyes as well as the tears threatening to spill over the rims of your own. (Tip: look at a bright light source and do math calculations in your head. Trust me, it works.)
16. While you can still hold yourself somewhat together, walk into the airport as fast as possible.
17. Swallow that sense of dread.
18. Only when you’re sure that they’re not there anymore, turn back and look for your family one more time.