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It's 8:11a.m. on a Tuesday. School day. For the past eleven years, this particular time of day has meant "get to school." For all the change that we have experienced, different jobs, different schools, different priorities, those powerful moments between 8:00 and 8:30 have always raised the pulse . . "Shake a leg, we'll be late for school!" . . . "Whew! Made it to school 30 seconds before first bell!" . . . More than once during those eleven years I caught myself, away at an early, out-of-town meeting, looking at my watch, hoping her dad got her to school on time.

The Long Arm of Mother

"The Long Arm of Mother"
by Patse Hemsley

This morning, though, instead of leading the panicked rush out the door, I have become a spectator. I stand on the front porch, holding the cat against his will and pathetically waving his paw as she drives away alone for the first time, giving a broad grin and a thumbs up as she glides down the street.

We don't let go of our children all at once, but rather moment by moment. There's the moment you first leave her with a friend or relative for a dinner out because they insist that you need time to be a couple. There's the first day back to work, the deep ache in your chest and tears in your throat. The first weekend away, the first steps, the first sleepover, the first fight over what she'll wear, her choice of friends, her hair color.

Every time you let go, you know it's time, you know it's right, and you know it feels too soon and all wrong.

I feel so foolish, choked with tears when she calls to tell me she made the 10 mile drive to school safely. Of course she did. She's driven that route more than a hundred times in the past ten months as I sipped coffee and tried to feel natural on the passenger side.

Why does this all feel too soon, when I knew it was coming, planned for it, looked forward to the freedom it would buy me? How can it feel wrong when I realize how much more driving experience she has had than I did when I first drove off alone to school? Why do I feel the reminiscent ache in my chest when I know what a mature, considerate, cautious young woman she is, what good sense she has demonstrated as a driver?

Maybe I thought it was all about concern for her safety, when it was really about the lost opportunities for casual chatting, learning about friends and teachers, or just quietly sharing the same space that taxiing her around provided. It's about her not needing me as much. It's about letting go, again.

Also in Song and Story:
Shamanism    The Princess of Clarity, Grace, and Euphony    Toy Story

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