Wheels up sadly

Today is for us the last official day of our “holiday.” Even though we’ve been back at work for a week, today was the day our daughter got on a plane for North Carolina to finish out her senior college year. As each year goes by, we see them less and less often — the two kids. And they’re not kids; they’re twenty-somethings. That’s the way of life in America, but not so common in other countries and cultures. We are reduced to catching up with the small details of their lives by checking status on Facebook — in fact, they invited us to sign on and to share photos. I know we should be thankful for the trust, and we are! Still, leaving them at airports or waving goodbye as they drive off never gets easier. We love our quiet tidy empty nest, once it’s been that way for a while, but the leave-taking  parts are hard.  Parents all over America are feeling much the same way this week as their children head back to wherever they came from before the holidays. Does it get easier as the years go on? I guess we’ll find out.

Perhaps it’s mainly the few minutes of transition time that are so sad. The instant of time where they turn, give a half-smile, and then turn again and walk away without looking back. Just as we did 30+ years ago with our own parents. In a few days, we’ll settle into our routines, they’ll settle into theirs, and all will be well. In May, we’ll travel back for her graduation and perhaps our son will also attend. It’ll be a mini reunion with another cap & gown… seems like the high school graduation just happened yesterday and now it’s time for a college event.

There’s something synergistic about sadness and frigidity — this thermometer in front of me is now registering 0.1 degrees! Our day today was beautifully sunny but icily quite cold and blindingly bright with fresh snow that in places actually sparkled like something synthetic. Stepping outside on a very cold morning is similar to the Sahara desert at night — and yes, I do know what that’s actually like. All is silent, muffled, and cold. Yes, the Sahara is cold at night in January. I can stand outside in subzero weather and listen and not hear anything, and then I think about what my yard is like in July… but right now, it’s nearly impossible to appreciate that this min-environment can be so completely different between January and July. What if summer just doesn’t come this year? What if the snow just keeps coming and coming and coming for the rest of the year? That would be climate change.

However, I trust completely that in July, our yard will be vivid green with flowering vines climbing rock walls, hummingbirds taking nectar from red trumpet flowers, bees and bugs buzzing between my skin and the plants, the garden bursting with ripening tomatoes. There will be neighborly noise, with kids and dogs, lawn mowers and the scent of brats cooking on grills. Now, if we hear anything at all, it’s snowblowers and sand trucks.

We drove to the airport in the sunshine today, admiring the expanse of farmland on the outskirts of Madison — the sweep of fresh clean whiteness across cleared fields not now visible; the long straight two-lane roads scraped clear of snow by legions of plows. No ice on the roads today, and not very busy at our small airport. The snowfall this week had a cleansing effect, washing away the confused muddy feelings of saying goodbye. There’s a lot to be said for settling back into routines and getting rid of that last 10 pounds.

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