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Meandering Thoughts on a Child Leaving Home

The sun shining on this uncharacteristically warm fall almost winter day, I walked kicking the last of spring and summer under my feet in the form of fallen leaves. Every morning for a few short weeks, we awaken wondering if there will be snow or warmth. It's that in-between season time that has us with one foot in the past and another in the future. With it brings uncertainty of what the next season holds and memories of the past season. Changing seasons have always fascinated me in both the physical world and in the life seasons of the passage of time.

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Tomorrow, our second son signs on his first apartment and in two weeks he graduates from college with his civil engineering degree. I've been through this before. I know the drill. I will go sit in his empty room, breathe deeply and remember.

I will remember the little boy who incessantly made things out of paper; whole costumes for himself and all of his thousand stuffed animals. "Fluffy" always had a special creation. How is it I can still hear the stir of the lego bin in my mind, but now the room is quiet? I will remember the lizards, guinea pigs and fish that once called this room home. I don't miss the creatures, but I sure do miss the boy. I also love the man. Oh. And the turtle. The one who somehow got out and drug his wet little self far, far away leaving a trail that stopped after he dried. After a frantic while, we found him happily snuggled in towels in the unhappy sister's bathroom.

The music that came from this room! I will miss the sound of the keyboard and random guitar strumming. I'm sure I will hear him play, but no longer will the songs be random and frequent. The studying at the table while I make dinner, the coming in to talk at random times and just living life; all fallen leaves under my feet and memories swirling around. The thing about leaves is one day they are on the trees and you get used to them. You don't even think about them anymore. And then, the colors begin to change and before you know it, those once green leaves are rustling under your feet. I'm so glad all of these memories are safely tucked in my heart and won't be blown away by the wind. 

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Tonight is the last night home will be home for real; his only home, his obvious home, his actual home. Tomorrow this home will be 'home,' but not the place he lays his head every night. This home will be 'home' in the sentimental sense. He stands at the edge of the beginning of a new season and I couldn't be more happy. I peek over his shoulder and can too see the possibility and the good in store. Hope and expectation are thick in the air and possibility is wide open. The key that gets placed in his hand tomorrow will be the one that opens the door to his adult life. My fingers feel as if I have been holding something for a very, very long time and they are unbending, unclenching, releasing. They ache. This one I cared for, nurtured, held, tended to, carried and loved now needs me to love him best by letting him go all the way.

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I am mostly happy. This tender boy has grown into a kind man and I couldn't be more proud. It's what the long, long hours of parenthood are for; creating a childhood, cultivating a heart, teaching about life and preparing. This is what we were working for. He was never ours. He was always a human being entrusted to us until he was ready to live the rest of his life. And this is where I sit, caught in between the season of childhood and adulthood. The in-between place is usually a hard place. It's a place between certainty and uncertainty. Eventually life will have a new rhythm and there will be new joys and experiences the last season didn't have. I will get to know the man; the adult who now is. We're not really losing. You can't experience a new season if you stay in the last season. 

Right now though, I sit in this tender place; a private place. A place where there are a few tears and a there is a little bit of sadness as my arms ache to hold the boy in a way you don't hold an adult man. If only I could do a menial task for him once again like wipe a nose, put a bandaid on a cut, read one more book, have a teen talk or one more car ride. Those many, many days turned into a season and that season is now a past. It's now packaged up neatly in a small box marked 'childhood.' 

My job isn't done though. It's just changing and I now get to embark on a new adventure. I'm a little unsure and just like when he was born, I don't know how to do this next season well. I know a little more than I used to since it's my second time around, but just like with little kids, every adult kid is different. Just like in the last season though, I will continually pray that the God who holds all and knows all will teach me to hold his heart well in the season to come. May I hold all of their hearts well in the seasons to come.

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