(I originally wrote this in 2014, but I didn’t have blog then)
When I was a young mother, even before all four of my children were born, I had this plaque hanging in our foyer:
“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings”. Hodding Carter
I thought that summed up the job of parenthood quite nicely. And it served as the theme for how I raised my children.
So, I gave them roots, as best I could, all the while knowing that I was really preparing to let them go.
I hoped that by the time they left, they would have a solid foundation on which to build their lives. A knowledge of who they were and where they came from, the difference between right and wrong so embedded in them that no matter how difficult, they would do the right thing.
So, while I shed a few tears when they each went to kindergarten for the first time, graduated from high school, left home for college, graduated fr om college, and moved out of the house for good, they were mostly tears of pride. Except for the tears for when they went to college. Those were mixed with envy and excitement.
The “Going to College ” tears were also my recognition of the sprouting of tiny wings. All the milestones before that were still in the root-growing years. And up until they went away to school, I thought I still had plenty of time.
But Going-Away-to-College-Wings are only “practice wings,” so I still didn’t feel the impact of letting them go.
And then they graduated, moved away, got jobs, even got married, and I still didn’t feel like I had “let them go.” They had their wings, they had their lives, yet somehow I still felt tethered to them. I guessed that giving them wings was not as difficult as I had imagined it would be. Either that, or preparing for it for all those years worked.
My daughter, Faith, moved to Atlanta in October of 2013, and she came back to visit this past week.
We had a relaxing and fun time. We talked, laughed, danced around the living room to “I’m All About the Bass,” and watched too many hours of “American Horror Story.”
And then I watched her on YouTube. She was on a local Atlanta radio show talking about the results of changes in her workplace for the servers in the restaurant she works in due to her union organizing efforts. The changes were substantial, and necessary.
I was impressed. She was poised, articulate, and intelligent. It wasn’t what I had expected to hear her say, and it wasn’t how I expected to feel given our opposing views on this matter.
And there it was. Her life. Her choices. Her commitments. Her sense of doing the right thing.
Her wings were a little too large for my comfort. I started feeling…what? I wasn’t sure. After all I thought I had “let her go” when she moved a thousand miles away over a year ago.
I didn’t think much more about it until I was driving her to the airport and when her boyfriend called, she said, “I’ll be home soon.”
Home. Isn’t that where she just was? Isn’t home always my home?
When we got to the airport, she stepped out of the car and strapped her see-through airport approved back pack on her back. She leaned into the car, gave me a hug and a kiss and said, “I love you,” before turning around to walk into the airport.
I watched her tall, thin frame drag her tiny carry on luggage behind her. I noticed her dark hair resting on her shoulders as she carried herself with confidence and perfect posture.
I watched her walk back towards her life. And I realized that while I had prepared to let her go from the day she was born, I was not prepared for her to let ME go. To leave me behind.
She walked through the airport doors and they swished shut behind her. But I could still see her in my mind’s eye, walking to the gate, taking the escalator, boarding the plane.
I still see her now. Because she is mine. And the truth is I never really “let go” of her, or any of my children for that matter.
No matter how large the wings, or how far away they fly, the roots between mother and child still exist. The roots don’t disappear. I realized that you don’t have to trade one for the other, they co-exist, and it is as it should be.
When Faith landed safely in Atlanta, she called to let me know. When I didn’t answer, because I had fallen asleep she sent me a text:
I made it home 🙂
She may be “home,” but she still has roots planted firmly in my heart.