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It has been one month since Kelsea flew 1399.9 miles away to the west to go to college. It feels like much longer to me.

I was imagining that with the plethora of communications channels these days, we would be in touch more often. When I was in college, my parents sent me letters, and I called them once a week. Back in those days of yore, we still had long distance charges, so it was always after 8:00 in the evenings, usually on a Sunday night. After all, my father would always call his mother on Sunday nights after the rates went down, something he did until the day she moved in with my parents. Even at the beach, he would walk down to the telephone booth by Mr. Godwin’s to call her at the same time every week.

Today, with email, Skype, Facebook, Instagram, text messages, twitter, snapchat, and probably lots of other things I don’t know about, as I say, I assumed Kelsea and I would be in semi-constant communication. However, my daughter is the exception to the rule of her age, and is not a fan of social media or spending hours on the computer. As she pointed out to me, I should think this is a good thing – she is spending her time reading, studying (I hope), playing ultimate, making friends, and exploring her new self, surroundings, and independence.

In an ironic twist of fate, I find that I am communicating with her via the occasional letter (though my first and favorite letter did not make it through the mails) and phone calls. She tends to call me on Sundays, a sweet coincidence, since I never told her about my father’s phone calls. I love to hear about her new life, though I find little to tell her about mine just now, which is okay. I do send her texts once in a while, but don’t want to encroach on her new life. I wasn’t a helicopter parent when she was here, and I won’t become one now that she’s gone. We Skype on occasion, and I’ve been lucky enough to see her space and meet some of her friends through Skype – I do have to be conscious of being dressed in something other than a bedsheet when I answer her Skype calls, since I never know if it will be just the two of us, or me, her, and roomful of others.

It’s hard to find the balance, to know what the balance is. I know she misses me, and I also know that she needs to learn how to manage that feeling. I know I miss her, and I suppose I have to learn to manage that feeling too. I do send her a message every single day – some funny or sweet animal picture  – just so she knows I am out here and thinking about her. Parents have gone through this challenge for decades, if not centuries, when their children leave home. We are lucky to have the open channels available to us that we do, a little luxury that parents long ago didn’t have. I do know one thing though: she is happy. And that’s all that matters.

IMG_3865
Bellingham, Washington.

Quote of the day: “Now I understand that one of the important reasons for going to college and getting an education is to learn that the things you’ve believed in all your life aren’t true, and that nothing is what it appears to be.” — Daniel Keyes

Daily gratitudes:
Cleaning up
A Broncos win (after a near heart attack)
A talk with my daughter
Petey’s new rear end
Beautiful Colorado days

Kelsea left for college early on Saturday morning. In my characteristic parenting style, when she and ex-Pat came to pick me up, I gave her what I thought was Immodium to calm her nervous stomach. It turned out to be a sleeping pill. Oops. But her stomach did calm down, and she was relaxed for the flight, and she now has another story about what her Mother did to her. Let’s see, there’s the finger guillotine incident, the asparagus incident, the Icy Hot incident, the smoke detector incident, the birds at the zoo incident, the numerous incidents at Camp Lejeune…I could go on and on. At least she will have some classic tales to tell her children, and she knows what NOT to do.

It is hard to watch your only child leave for college, a strange feeling, buying a one-way plane ticket and sending her off on her own. I know she’ll make her own mistakes, experiments, and have her own heartbreaks. I know she’s smart and level-headed, wiser than her years, and ready. That’s the thing. We spend our years with our children nurturing them, helping them discover themselves and their limits, and teaching them how to be independent. As my friend Beth put it, giving them their wings. That doesn’t make it any less heart-tugging to watch them fly away. I miss her. She misses me, which is nice to hear. We’ve got Skype set up so we can see each other’s faces, and I can see her in her now-natural habitat. Classes start on Thursday, and she gets to go throw with some Ultimate players that day as well. She’s talked to the fire department about starting training. She’s got it more together than I did at her age, and I’m so immensely proud of her. I can’t wait to see how she continues to grow and evolve. We are all beautiful works in progress.

IMG_3860
Bellingham, Washington.

Quote of the day: “Sometimes love means letting go when you want to hold on tighter.” —  Melissa Marr

Daily gratitudes:
Sunflowers
My chiropractor
The last day of summer (a bittersweet gratitude)
My little workhorse of an air conditioner
Soft pillows

All pink and blue, unlike our swirling yet unfulfilled storm clouds here in Lafayette this afternoon. And speaking of babies – or those who are no longer babies – my darling daughter goes off to college orientation tomorrow. Then she comes back, which is good, but then she will go away again. I guess that is the way of it. As today’s quote says, we all leave a bit of ourselves behind when we leave a place. I have left much of myself at Topsail. My darling daughter will leave much of herself here. But we both have so much more to see and do and give, and an endless amount of ourselves to leave behind in the places we will love.

Baby SKy
Topsail Beach, North Carolina.

Quote of the day: “We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” — Pascal Mercier

Daily gratitudes:
Making it through a tough day
MKL
Sharing Kelsea’s excitement about college housing
Our two new wooden parrots
Voyager

My niece graduated from college yesterday.  It is a strange feeling to see someone whom you held in your arms when she was only hours old make this giant step into the world of adulthood.  It makes you feel your own age most acutely.  Especially since she is graduating from the same university from which I graduated 26 years ago. 

Watching her ceremony made me remember my own graduation day, which had its tribulations and triumphs.  Of course, hers did as well.  It was held in an intimate outdoor amphitheatre, which, weather-wise, is a fairly safe bet in Colorado in May.  But this year, our weather has been exceptional – cold and rainy even now, when usually we’re basking in the 80s.  Sure enough, just before the ceremony started, so did the chilly rain, pouring down necks and backs in rivers.  The family had been smart enough to bring a few umbrellas to loan out.  Kelsea, in her ongoing efforts to acclimate to the climate of Wales and Ireland, just decided to get wet, until someone forced a makeshift rain hat on her head, constructed out of plastic that formerly covered an orchid corsage.

The speakers were unable to have microphones due to the rain, and it was hard to hear them over the thump of raindrops on dozens of umbrellas.  While most students dressed for the occasion, I was amazed to see some in untucked T-Shirts, baseball caps and ratty blue jeans.  I’d think the event called for a bit more effort.  And some of the skirts were so short that they came all the way up to the “zatch”, as my Mother used to say.  I kept waiting for someone to turn an ankle in their 3- and 4-inch heels as they negotiated the stairs, the stage and the stairs. 

The Director of Student Services hugged every single graduate, which was a nice touch, but had I been her, I wouldn’t have been chewing gum the entire time.   I guess propriety is dead and buried in an unmarked roadside grave.

Walking back through campus to the truck, I felt myself 21 again.  I have spent so much time on college campuses in my life that they feel like home.  Since I always worked so much in my junior and senior years, I didn’t spend any time just hanging out in the quad – I don’t think I ever lay on the grass in the sun and studied. 

So my memories of my time on this particular campus are thin and few.  I regret that.  I wish I had embraced the college culture more.  But I didn’t have the time to play.  I just had time to work and to study.  Until now, that’s about all I’ve ever had time to do.  Now, I have a chance to embrace life.  Just like my niece does.  In our own ways, we’re both starting new chapters in our lives.

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