Graduation was more than a month ago, even though it feels like we’ve just stopped celebrating.  Grace didn’t want it all to end – the parties, the excitement, friends all talking about the fun they were planning for beach week (thank God that is over!).  But it did end, and summer jobs and internships began, then the air-traffic-control-like coordination of who needs to be where when, and what vehicle they will use to get there.  (With four teenagers under our roof, the exercise requires an advanced skill set of diplomacy, flexibility, ingenuity, and a thick skin, so you can ignore all the insults and whining.)  Like other summers, we are all busy.  We work. We make plans with friends. We prepare for our next steps.  But the summer, too, will end, and with it, a precious time for our family.

When Grace leaves for college, right before her big sister, I will have to work hard to stay focused on the joy of her journey.  She is in one of the most growth-filled times of her life, and is bursting as a human being.  It’s sort of like that magic moment in the science class movie about mitosis, where you say to yourself, “Wow!  How does it grow so fast?”  She is a human example of cell division – doubling every second.  She has registered for classes, and at this moment, plans to double major in neuroscience and biology (thus, the science metaphors).  She reads the course descriptions out loud before dinner when we are all in the kitchen with the enthusiasm that, if you are lucky, you can remember having had once in life.  She wants to take every class, right away.  She can’t wait for all that lies ahead.  

She is walking forward with a broad stride, until she starts to look back – back to her friends, whom she will miss.  And her family, which has simply always been waiting for her to come home to tell her stories. And all the things that are familiar, and comfortable.  Then she starts to talk fast, and whimper, and ask to sit in my lap.  Seriously, the biggest conflict in Grace’s life at this moment is whether or not she should take “Blanky” with her to college.  Blanky is what is left of Grace’s baby blanket.  When “she” existed in physical form, Blanky was a soft, plush, airy comfort source.  Now, 18 years later, Blanky is less than a memory of her former self – a ragged, patched, filthy source of bacteria.  But, she is Grace’s lovey, and the feel and smell of her bring Grace back down to earth.  She is a tangible vestige of Grace’s youth, and it is literally hard to let go.

I cannot help but see that Grace and I are alike in this way – we are both walking forward, looking back.  Life is waiting, and we go to meet it.  But the things that fall in our wake, the things that we have come to know and love, are sometimes left behind.  Grace will leave in three short weeks.  I know that she must go.  It has been our job to prepare her for this very moment.   But as Grace and I take these steps forward, I know that we will both have one eye over our shoulders, wondering if we will ever be here again.

One reply on “Walking Forward, Looking Back”

  1. Ms. Frederick, your post really touched me. This afternoon my mom and I had lunch together to work on plans for my wedding, 5 weeks from now. I was remembering the last big transition we went through together: my summer before college. I was excited but scared, and I woke up sobbing some nights. I wondered if this time in life, just before I get married, is a parallel. I’ll be leaving behind my last name, and eventually trade in the role of “daughter” for the role of “mom” myself. I came across your post just an hour after our lunch conversation, and emailed it to my mom. We both cried! Thanks for your beautiful writing, and please look forward to what’s to come in your mother-daughter relationship! 🙂

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