We arrive at the campus together, her first college visit as she begins to make her choice. She is scheduled to take a class at 9:45 as a way to introduce her to college life. Half an hour to kill. I think she’d rather have sat still, but feet walking rather than nerves churning seems a wiser occupation.
We find some lovely trees and she humors me with a photo op. We walk some more. She checks the time. I point to posters of clubs and professors promoting classes. She checks the time again. 2 minutes have ticked by. We chat about front row or back row for sitting. After several more glimpses at the time it is finally clear she can safely enter the classroom.
She leans in and kisses me goodbye.
I keep my eyes bright to smile at her and wish her well. But I feel another of the waves that have been coming on during this, her senior year. My daughter is going to leave my home.
Generally, I cry easily. But now I grit my back teeth and hold in the tears. I am her ambassador here on this visitation tour to Lewis and Clark. This is her spot, her impression to make. I didn’t want to be the conspicuous crying lady and blow it for her.
There is no doubt I’m thrilled for her. She’s ready. But who will ask to have her back rubbed just as I’m beginning to nod off at night? I’ve made a peanut butter sandwich for that girl since first grade, then offered the dirty knife to the dog to lick. How will I find the rhythm in my life when she is gone?
I walk in my stupor of sadness while the rain pours down. Our time together is growing shorter. Foot after foot does eventually provide a rhythm, however, and I find industry behind the lens of my camera.
Fingers of moss reach skyward. Stones are carpeted. The scene is green and gray. Photosynthesis is alive and well in the Pacific Northwest turning toxicity into oxygen. I can breathe. My pores open and my skin calms.
I am a stone girl; a red rock aficionado. I am drawn to the dry of the desert. I regularly climb large red slabs that jut up from the earth. My daughter has always detested the sun. When she was younger, I made her come outside in the Albuquerque heat and she wilted. Heat rashes abounded.
Here in this green landscape I understand her better. She is wet and cool. I listen to her music through these green branches and I bloom. The books she reads like King Arthur turn pages more easily in this landscape.
I came here to let her go. I glimpse the green of this different path she might take away from my red life. She may not choose this particular academic institution. Fine. But this path; this green direction that is different from mine; this is a certainty.
I am red stone. In the desert the red earth knows where it is. Huge arches of it rise up to greet the blue sky. It is fiery, absorbing heat from the sun. My daughter is green moss. In the forest the wet welcomes the moss and everything is softened by its grace. Even the rocks grow a layer of green skin. It is cool, gentling the air with mist.
I am a mother who raised a child. I listened to playground troubles and spread on sunscreen. I reviewed English papers and learned to text. I put in the other earbud and shared the song from one ipod. Now I’m expected to surrender her to the wide world.
I am stretched. I am frightened. And still I am thrilled and in love with all that is opening before this girl I love most.
Red and green live across from each other on the color wheel but they are complimentary colors. Could anything be more soothing to the heat of the desert than the mist of a forest floor? My daughter has brought cooling grace to the stone slab of my life.
Look at the moss on these stairs. It is green growing on stone. A place to climb. I want her to have her life, as large and wonderful as it might be. I’ve provided the stone staircase that she might climb to find a room all her own. I’m anxious to see what layer of green moss she will lay down as she makes her pathway into the future.
We are not the same. I am stone. She is moss. But as she prepares to leave, I find a garden that helps me see how we are planted in one place.
Are there hellos in the profound goodbyes of your life? What complimentary colors do you find in those people who are different from you? Are you more a stone person or a moss person? And what helps you to find the wonderful mist of grace to welcome an altared space?