Another Christmas has come and gone. We just got home from Christmas with John’s family in Valley. He and I did what we have done every year on our way home from our last celebration: we shopped. This year, however, the season brings with it more than the usual bittersweet emotions. This is our last Christmas with Erin all to ourselves. I guess that isn’t exactly entirely true. We left Valley by 7:30 this morning to get to the airport in Atlanta in time to catch her flight to Milwaukee. TJ met her there. She has gone to spend some of her Christmas vacation with him and to attend his father’s New Year’s Eve wedding. By this time next year she will have moved to Wisconsin permanently. This spring will be her last semester at U of A before transferring. As I understand it, she will not be moving unless there is a real commitment between the two of them by the time she is expecting to move in May. Personally, I’m surprised she didn’t become engaged over Christmas, but then, TJ is a man of his own mind and I’m sure he has a plan.
This morning when we dropped Erin off at the Delta drop-off, I watched her walk away from us and it struck me just how confident a woman she is. Had I not known her, I would never have guessed that she is only 19. She looked like a worldly traveler, confident in her ability to go and do whatever she pleases as well as any obstacles that may get in her way. It was almost as if I was seeing her for the first time, only this time not as her mother. Pride swelled as I watched her walk away. It wasn’t until we actually drove away that I realized she really was doing exactly that. Today, she walked away and never looked back. She has taken control of her own destiny, made her plans, and forged ahead. If there is fear, I will never know. I’m sure that she will tell me some things, but surely not all. Her life is completely her own and there are things that she will experience, some good and some bad, that I will never hear about . At various points during the afternoon I found myself almost tearing up at the oddest times. It seems that after more than a year I would not get so lonely when she leaves, but I swear that it only gets worse. Every time she leaves, it is easier for her. How can I have such mixed feelings about this? My heart breaks a little every time she leaves, yet my pride in her ability to run toward her life is immeasurable. I’m pretty sure mine is the plight of most mothers everywhere. I so badly want to hold onto her, yet would never deny her the joy of what she is experiencing now. Her future is so full of promise. Unless I have misjudged the situation horribly, she has found the person she wants to spend the rest of her life with and he feels the same about her. She has decided on a major that will be challenging but makes her happy. It never occurred to me that the fulfillment of her dreams would take her so far away from home. I guess it all depends on your definition of home. I believe it was Robert Frost that said that home is the place that, when you go there, they have to let you in. True, but there is so much more to it. Home is the place where you go to find refuge, where there is someone who is willing to fight your fights for your or to just let you rant until you feel better. At home there is comfort, love, warmth, solace.
John and I talked about New Year’s Eve plans on our way home. This year, we will do what he and I have done since Erin became old enough to make her own plans. Before then, we watched the Twilight Zone marathon on Sci-Fi and occasionally played a board game while we watched. Once we found ourselves alone, John and I have been going to a movie then out to dinner. Afterwards we hit Krispy Kreme and head home. Not a very exciting New Year’s celebration, but we like it. This time of year it is traditional to look back on the year that is ending and make resolutions for the year to come. Today, I’ve been revisiting the past nineteen holiday seasons and have marveled at how quickly they have passed. It is hard to imagine what my holidays will be like in the future. My whole life Christmas has followed a pattern. This year that routine changed just slightly. Next year will bring more change. But no matter how I choose to see it, there are undeniable facts. The biggest milestones of my life have passed. I graduated from college, married the man of my dreams, raised my family. Now what? Grandchildren and retirement? Really? That’s all?
I refuse to believe that is all that I have left to look forward to. Surely my life from this point isn’t supposed to be based on my career ending and watching my child reach her milestones. With her building her life so far away, mine will definitely be different than before. I’m sure that I will share the high points in her life from a distance and over the phone. When that happens I am just as sure that not being able to be with her will break my heart, just as watching her walk away at the airport today did. Yet, beneath it all will be a fierce pride at her courage. In order to chase her dreams and live the life she wants for herself, she is stepping out on her own. Her dad and I will never be more than a phone call and short plane ride away. There is nothing here that could keep me from going to her wherever she is, whenever that may be.
As the new year approaches I will do my best to keep from being saddened by all that has changed in my life over the past year. Rather, I will find joy in my life as it is now. Part of that joy will be watching my child find hers. Happy New Year, everyone.