Thursday, August 27, 2009

What She Wound Up Taking

The day came two weeks ago for my 21-year-old daughter to move away to college. The school is only 45 minutes away, but that's far enough to qualify. Since she is sharing an apartment with her brother who remains in that college town, Rose said many times, "I'm not taking much."

However, the evening before the move found her combing through her possessions, filling bags and tubs with various necessities which, upon further thought, she realized needed to come along. So in the morning we filled up the Isuzu with clothes, toiletries, school supplies, and storage containers for the ride to Lawrence. Some of the things Rose took surprised me a bit. Some of what she left behind in her room surprised me as well, as I went up later to vacuum and check the windows and just stand and look around.

I imagine that time will tell what Rose really took with her. How many of my repeated admonishments and shreds of wisdom, all learned the hard way, made it into her bag to be taken out later, turned over and examined, and put into play? Was she listening, and did I say everything I needed to?

As someone once said, you may think nothing you say as a parent is penetrating your child's force field, but it is--because God did not give us a way to close our ears as we can your eyes.

This is an exciting and emotional season for so many mothers and fathers and children as college begins and they part company. I wish you all the best and fullness of heart and, some day, the reward of hearing what you told your teenager fall from her lips with the conviction of a new discovery.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Did you miss me

I am back after a busy month of family visits, both at home and away. In July I took ten days to visit my niece and her three little boys in Corning, New York, a town of steep hills, spectacular Victorian homes, and alleys. (These last I particularly appreciate since we do not have them where I live. During an evening's walk down one of them, I even came upon a house that fronted the alley, and I wondered if the children playing out front were uncomfortable when they had to give friends their address and point out how to get there.)

Of all the fine moments spent with my nephews, one rings in my mind with special clarity. As I labored up the sidewalk, returning to their house after a quick solo trip down to Market Street for a newspaper and coffee, I heard the 5-year-old from his perch on their front porch cry out "Aunt Ann is back!"

His happy cry, carried to me over the still, warm air of that lazy afternoon, told me that I had been missed. My return was cause from some brief excitement. I brought nothing back for them from the shops--no candy or stuffed animal or wind-up toy--just me in my old pink hat with a newspaper under my arm. Yet I was heralded as though I brought a sack of delights on my back.

Little Noah reminded me then and there of how our children (or nephews or grandchildren) look to us with a pure anticipation only found in little ones. It felt so good to realize that my return after barely an hour occasioned a small thrill; that I must be credited in his mind with something, even if it was as minor as the chance of playing another game of Beanie Baby toss.

Indeed, spending time with these children reminded me that we are huge in their minds, giants of knowledge and ability (even if they don't always obey these giants). Things I said but thought they paid no attention to I heard them repeat carefully to their parents, as though it were scripture, as they tucked them into bed that night.

What could work more wonders for a middle-aged woman's ego than that? Nothing comes to mind.