I briefly took hold of a mother’s hand as I walked past the seat where she was sitting. She, like Moms and Dads all over the community, was feeling the ache of “letting go.” This mother’s ‘baby’ had grown up, had become educated to some degree, had matured, had fallen in and out of love a dozen times, had grown into and out of countless styles of shoes, clothing, hair, fads, music. And winter coats. This mother’s ‘baby’ had laughed and cried, risked and explored, failed and excelled with a handful of good friends through the years, had finally graduated from High School and decided to follow some dreams that had been nurtured along the way.
It was only for a moment, but as I squeezed this mother’s hand and looked into her eyes, I could tell that she had been thinking about her child’s graduation from High School just last spring. Where does the time go? How quickly the September that was once months—even years in the future, had now finally and fully arrived. I could tell that she had been thinking about how rapidly it seemed her child had gone from diapers to diploma.
As I let the hand of this mother gently slip away from mine, I couldn’t help think of my own child’s seemingly recent entrance into the world of Elementary School. How fast would these days go? How fast would the years go? Who might it be who takes my hand a dozen years from now and says, “Wow, it seems like only yesterday; so much has happened since then”?
In this season that we call Fall, I’m constantly reminded how quickly everything seems to change: the colors in the trees, the temperatures from morning until evening, our daily rhythms and tasks, even our lifestyles change and we seem to live at such a quickened pace. I sense, from time to time, my own need to pay attention to some of the seemingly insignificant things that happen in my day because, more often than not, there is a great significance taking place that is so easily overlooked.
Some years ago, the following letter flowed from my pen on to paper; a “love note” of sorts to my child who had grown out of diapers and into adolescence, out of rebellion and into responsibility, out the house and into someone destined to become a self-sustaining, creative individual if only trying to make it through another semester of college. The letter was written at about this time of year on one of those days when I had been paying close attention to the seemingly insignificant. The following is an excerpt from that letter and seems to put at least some of what that mother might have been feeling as I held her hand for that brief moment while walking past the seat where she was sitting in church last Sunday morning.
My Dear One,
I passed a school bus full of kids on my walk today. It’s the first day of classes for these sad, excited, tired, anxious and forlorn faces. Summer dreams turned to memories must be packed away, put on the shelf in a closet, as the seriousness of school becomes the talk around tables all over town. No matter how much these kids anticipate the little thrills that await them—from new books and pencils, lunch boxes and multi-pocketed backpacks to checking out the cute little girls or boys in the next row of seats—while they’re on that big, rumbling, clumsy yellow bus, the sadness of a summer fled is all that matters to them.
You, there in the dorm won’t have that same drowsy, rattled trip over railroad tracks and through neighborhoods to get to your classes. But I’m sure that during the first week there at school, in the evening, when you’re still not completely settled in, or quite comfortable with the way the carpet squares and lofted bunk beds (that you just ‘had to have’) fit the room you’ve been given–and your roommate is down the hall brushing visiting others or something and the halls echo and are quiet, you too will have that same sad feeling of a summer fled.
My heart aches for you. I miss not having you close at this time of year when so much seems to be changing. Yet, in the midst of this there is a certain kind of…well, growing pain I feel that isn’t so terribly unbearable. In fact, I’m learning to cherish that growth, and I hope you will learn to cherish that growing pain too, because it’s as much a part of you as all of the good times have been and always will be.
Cherish those feelings NOW, explore them, before your roommate comes back and rustles around a bit before settling in for the night…
Then, my dear one, after you’ve had that moment with the thoughts of a summer fled, then turn your thoughts ahead, to the busy, brighter, people-filled days you’ll soon be slipping through, and remember, it is to those moments that in time you’ll return and say, ‘Wow, it seems like only yesterday . . . so much has happened since then.”
“I love you to the moon and back, twice.”
P.S. Don’t forget to lay out your clothes for the first day of classes, please have someone take a picture of you in the morning, and remember to say your prayers before you go to sleep.
Parents: our summer has fled, and with that comes the ache of knowing the high cost of loving so deeply. Growing pains for some, for sure. For others, a summer fled along with the change in tree colors, temperatures and routines means new directions, new opportunities, and new hope. Whatever the depth of feeling, whatever the range of emotion, the empty place created by a child who moves out and moves on creates certainly has the ability to create more room for new expressions of the power of love.
And of course, these are the moments upon which we shall one day look back and say, “Wow, it seems like only yesterday…so much has happened since then.”