Change. The thing you find lying randomly on the sidewalk. And that other thing that defines what being alive means.
My one and only daughter turned eighteen the other day. I experienced a mixture of sadness and elation. Sad that her childhood is slowly coming to a close. And elated that she is now responsible (at least legally) for the actions she takes.
“I can shop online now!” she said.
“You can do your own paperwork now.” I said.
“I can drive a car now.” she said.
“You can look into how much it will cost. And pay for (most of) it.” I said.
Her younger brother congratulated her and said in the same breath, “Now you are no longer under Mom’s thumb. You can do whatever you want!” he said.
“I’m still under her thumb,” she said. “You’ll see.”
Ah yes. That pesky financial dependence thingy.
This past week we looked at a one-year college prep program. It is as far away as she could possibly get and still be in a German-speaking country. I duly took note of it, but then realized how perfect it all seemed for her. She will attend for a year, then see if she might apply elsewhere.
And when her birthday — in the midst of our college tour — came around, I felt the swirl of her roots, the tangle and gentle sprouts, twirling in a new direction, branching out farther away than I felt comfortable with and yet so appropriate to gain the nourishment they need to sustain themselves away from the Mother Tree.
I felt upended and it wasn’t only the grueling 1,000 mile drive that did it. It was the sense that freedom comes with a cost. She may not know it yet. But she will. And, speaking from experience: living in a different country will indeed be the best thing for her to experience what being on her own is really like.
I may never get over it. Neither will she. And that is exactly what is supposed to happen. Even when the tree topples.
Upside down and all.