On Letting Go: My Daughter’s Adventures
Rosalie comes home this afternoon. She’s been gone for a week, on a school trip.
She’s my youngest heathen. My baby. Though don’t let her hear me call her that–she’s fourteen, and by far the most independent young person I know. She’s been planning on going on this trip with kids from four middle schools in the Sebasticook Valley area for more than a year. She’s saved up a good portion of the price of the tour herself. I would have loved to accompany her as a chaperone–so many mothers of her friends are doing that–but there was no way I could get the entire week off. Somehow, though, I think it might be best that I didn’t go. Primarily because she got to do this by herself.
Last spring she and her brother accompanied me on a school trip to the UK. She was a bit nervous about the trip and the flight and the foreign country. This time around, she packed and shopped for toiletries and snacks and generally took charge of her own situation. She was incredibly excited. I, on the other hand, was surprised by the hole her trip made, an emptiness located somewhere between my rib cage and my stomach. My baby! Off into the big world
The Heritage Tour began, according to the meticulous schedule, with a 14-hour bus ride to its southernmost point–just outside of Washington D. C. The group spent a couple of days there, looking at the White House, and the memorials. From there they moved northward into Amish country (Bird In Hand, PA–the most lovely-named town ever), and to Philadelphia and a date with the Liberty Bell. Eventually they wound up in New York City, with all its wonders. Rosalie sent me the occasional text, posted the occasional picture to Facebook, called a couple of times when she was bored on the bus. She seemed tired toward the end of the week, but not especially homesick. She’s not that kind of girl.
Meanwhile, I stayed here and felt distinctly weird. I’m used to having two heathens here to talk to. I’m used to Ben and Rosalie playing verbal ping-pong over the dinner table. I’m used to hearing Eminem and Justin Bieber and Carrie Underwood and Adele and who knows who else blaring from the bathroom when she’s doing her hair. I caught myself more than once listening for her steps from the room overhead, her muffled phone conversations with her gentleman friend. I was lost.
My oldest has been out of the house for years now. I know what the parental separation feels like. I think, though, that I felt it more keenly this week because this is my baby. This is my youngest child. Her growing independence is a sign that this phase of my life is slowly but surely coming to a close. All three will be gone soon, off to college, to their own lives, their own adventures. I don’t begrudge them that…but having been a parent now for twenty-nine years, I’m wondering what I’ll be next.
In her report from New York, Rosalie told me they hadn’t gone to the Statue of Liberty–there wasn’t time. This reminded me forcibly of being in the city with my father, who let us ride the ferry all the way out to the Statue, only to tell us not to get off the boat. He was a Greyhound bus driver, you see–and it was nearly rush hour. We had to get back.