I’ll get to the chicken in a minute but first…
For years I have had friends sending off their first born children to college. I have sent gifts and notes of congratulations, but never have I felt compassion for the Mothers and Fathers who now have an empty chair at their dinner table and walk by an empty bedroom. It just never occurred to me that this send off would be riddled with such emotion. Of course we celebrate all the accomplishments and the bright future ahead on this new chapter of their lives. I can’t really speak for Dads, but I think Mom’s feel this tug of emotion a bit more. Yet no one ever speaks of it. No one shares this side of this mile stone.
During pregnancy we Mothers have a connection that is unparalleled. Every infinitesimal movement is savored and attended to with joy. The blood that flows through both of us makes us one for a time. Until, at birth, they become their own living breathing selves. Here is the true start of the separation. I remember the moment when he was put in my arms, so completely dependent. Like any new Mom I felt humbled and grateful and saturated with love. By his very nature he made me want to be a better person. I knew he wasn’t really mine like a possession. I knew from the start that he was gifted to me. Entrusted to me by God. It was my and my husband’s job to care for him and teach him to love. To help him to know God and see God in everyone he encountered. All the while knowing that one day we would let go.
Leading up the his journey to college there’s a push back. A battle of wills that most Mom’s will agree is a natural phenomenon that occurs to make the leaving easier. There were days that I looked forward to his departure because of his mood and attitude. Thanks Nature for building in this little buffer! BUT when the day arrives, no mood matters. Like the pains of childbirth, all is forgotten and only love remains.
I enjoyed setting up Paul’s new dorm room and touring the school that would be his new home. I cried from time to time in anticipation of our goodbye. Being the sweet loving human he has become he reacted with compassion by rubbing my shoulder and saying “it will be okay Mom” This whole process is like being split down the middle…of course it will be okay. I wish I were going to college given all the wonderful opportunities and fun adventures our kids have before them. It will be hard work but LOTS OF FUN too. Why would he think it would be anything but okay?
So I thought I had it all together, had all my emotional moments over with. As we drove onto campus early in the morning with all of his belongings ready to set up his new home, I realized I wasn’t as composed as I thought. As we pulled into his designated parking lot we were greeted by a dozen upperclassmen in yellow shirts clapping and cheering us in. They shouted greetings and welcomed Paul with great zeal. That is when the tears started flowing again. We unloaded the car with their help and it made my heart swell to realize that my son would be happy here. We set him up, went to buy more last minute items then went to dinner together. His brother Mark, who had accompanied us, and I left Paul early in the evening so he could meet some new friends at one of the many welcome activities. Mark and I went back to our hotel and the separation was nearing.
On our last day together we met for lunch. I felt like a school girl with a crush talking to my son, noticing his maturity and new independence, hanging his every word. Leaning in, touching his arm, hoping he’ll smile at me to assure me when I leave today this isn’t good bye. I know I’m saying goodbye to the boy I raised. The next time we meet he will be closer to the man he will be.
On the last day of my visit to The Catholic University of America there was a welcome Mass at The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the campus. At that Mass I felt as though I was giving my son him back to God. Obviously not to take his life but to govern, love and guide him on his journey as a man. I will relinquish my role as main caregiver, teacher and provider. I’ll still teach and provide of course but my role will be different from here on. A sense of calm surrounded me. It was in this moment that I felt a peace with saying goodbye for now and leave him to their keeping. Now I am blessed with the opportunity to share in my son’s life on a path of his own choosing. I know it is his mission to bring beauty to the world. I know he as a moral compass that will lead him faithfully. I know his Faith is strong. He is smart, gifted and kind. It will be with great joy and admiration that I celebrate his accomplishments and contributions to the world. Yes, I’m crying again but my tears are happy!
Now how about the chicken? It just happens to be the last meal we shared. We were in a quick hurry as we were still packing and preparing for our trip. It needed to be easy to clean up and unforgettable. It was both.
Honey Mustard + Rosemary Chicken
- 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
- 4 tablespoons honey
- 2-3 tablespoons chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
- 3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary, extra for garnish
- 2 cups baby potatoes, halved
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 4-5 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Combine mustard rub ingredients in small bowl. Use fingers to massage and coat chicken, rubbing on both sides, and under skin.
- In a large bowl, whisk together dijon & whole grain mustard, honey and chicken stock. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil in oven-proof skillet over medium/high heat. Add chicken, skin side down and sear both sides for 2-3 minutes until golden brown.
- Remove from skillet and set chicken aside.
- Place potatoes in skillet and sprinkle with salt, pepper and dried rosemary.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes or until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork.
- Remove potatoes from oven and add chicken back to skillet, to combine with potatoes.
- Generously drizzle honey mustard sauce over chicken thighs.
- Add fresh rosemary sprigs.
- Place back in oven and roast for 25-30 until chicken is completely cooked through (internal temperature of 175 degrees F).
- Remove from oven, spring with fresh rosemary sprigs, serve immediately.