“You know, this will be the last weekend for the three of us,” said our daughter the other night.
Her seemingly innocent words hung in the kitchen air as both my wife and I let the words reveal themselves to us. With our daughter’s graduation from high school increasingly becoming a distant memory — replaced by planning for her moving out and off to college – her words filled the room with an odd feeling of bittersweet emotion. Within the next several weeks, life will dramatically change for all of us.
In what seems more recent than her waking across the stage to accept her diploma, I remember her first days in school and the ritual of back to school shopping for clothes, school supplies, and the always important decision of which backpack she’d wear for the year. To this day, we still occasionally run across a colorful backpack in hidden in a closet, unable to part with them for the memories they hold for us parents.
Only this year things are different – much different.
This year, there will be no backpack splashed with a colorful character from a cartoon series or contacting her friends to see who will be in her class for the year. Nor is there a school-issued list of required items to bring to her first day of class. No, this year everything changes.
But in comparison to everyone else under the roof, I guess I’ve been in a bit of self-denial about the approaching of this event. As being the youngest of our children, our daughter’s departure is more of a period than a comma in a sentence describing stages of life. For us, she is the caboose in a train of parental events of raising children under the safety of one roof.
So here we are, standing in the kitchen together, on the homestretch.
The next few weeks will be filled with visits from friends and weekend trips to celebrate the end of summer. And soon will come the ceremonial loading of the SUV with all the tools to help her make her own memories while my wife and I walk past yet another empty room.
Earlier this year a small bird made its home just inside the roofline of the small portico on the front of our house. For the next several weeks we watched the mother bird build a sturdy nest just outside our front door as the elements of spring swirled around her. A short time later we heard the sounds of smaller birds chirping away as the mother returned to the nest to feed and nurture them. Then one day, as quickly as it began, the nest was empty – the small birds taking flight and making their way into the world.
Recently I’ve wondered if Mother Nature didn’t set this series of events up for me as a last-minute reminder of how life works: you bring life into this world, you invest love and care onto them, and then you encourage them to leave the nest and live their own lives.
I’ll need to remember that next time I open a closet and discover a colorful backpack hidden in the corner.
– 30 –