I had to let the dust settle a little bit.  Over the last few weeks I have been reflecting on the summer and on the big event that capped it, Grace’s departure for boarding school.  I started this post in mid-September, and obviously, since then there have been even bigger events in our family.  Matt’s father’s death, and the weeks that followed, have clearly overshadowed Grace’s leaving for school.  That said, I’ve done a lot of thinking about what this summer and early fall were like, as Grace left, and that’s what I want to reflect on today.

And I can now say that the anticipation of Grace’s leaving was worse than the reality of it.

There’s no surprise here.  Anyone who knows me – even those who don’t! – knows I suffer from acute fear of what’s coming, and a keen, preemptive awareness of loss and endings.  I’m sure I learned that in my peripatetic childhood, which was marked by a big goodbye every four years.

The summer was glorious but it was also overshadowed by my anxiety and sorrow about what was coming in early September.  Every time someone asked me how I was doing – whether a dear friend or a kindly neighbor – I would burst into tears.  Literally. Regularly I started talking and had to stop because I found myself in tears.  This happened at the post office, at the dry cleaner, in the street as I brought groceries into the house. It’s fair to say that my sadness about all that was ending almost choked me.

The day itself came.  Yes, it was hard.  But the truth is, the day before we dropped her off was worse than the day after.  I miss her, desperately.  Our family is figuring out its new formation, and I think often of Launa‘s image of the shopping cart’s four wheels and how wonky things can be, how fast, when one wheel is off-kilter.

But the worry that hovered around the edges of this summer was, predictably, worse than the reality of life this fall.  I don’t know if in my preemptive grief I had done a lot of the hard work already.  I don’t know if I imagined a world so bleak that the truth of life now feels light in comparison.  I don’t know why, but I feel … okay.

Part of why I feel okay, I suspect, is my unshakeable belief that I truly lived the years with both kids at home.  I sank into them, and appreciated them, and loved them.  This belief reminds me of the last, devastating, glorious lines of Catherine Newman’s piece about facing the departure of teenage children:

“That was the time of our lives,” I’ll say to him.
And he’ll say, and this will be true, “At least we knew it.”

These last years, a blur of tucking Grace and Whit in, of the Science Museum giving way to Snapchat and homework and races and games, might well have been the time of my life.

You know what?  I knew it.

And the lesson, yet again, for me is that the anticipation of a transition is worth than its reality. I seem to need to keep learning this lesson over and over again. Grace is happy, and we are proud at how she’s adjusting and of how comfortable she seems. Her first few weeks of her great adventure were, of course, a lot rockier than we’d imagined.  And still, she persevered.  The three of us at home and figuring out our rhythm. I know there is joy ahead.  In fact there’s already joy right now.  I’m also not giving up hope that what lies ahead may hold its own wonders.

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  1. Posted October 10, 2017 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    You are so right about the anticipation being worse than the actual event. We’ve had a somewhat similar transition this fall as my husband quit his job to become a full time graduate student for the next three years. He also took on two part-time jobs bolstering his new career path, and committed to some hours at his old job still. I spent the summer tightly wound with worry, and while it has been an adjustment, it hasn’t been as bad as I anticipated it would be. Still hard, still a shock, but we are getting through it. I’m glad to hear that Grace is doing well, and you, too.

  2. H
    Posted October 10, 2017 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    I love this. It’s that inventory I take every day, weighing choices of how to spend the time: will this make my children and I feel more connected/more valued/more active in this world? Then, yes. If not, no. I appreciate your wisdom and reminder.

  3. Posted October 10, 2017 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    One of the challenges that I am experiencing right now is that I didn’t have that period of worry/fear/anticipation. I had effectively turned that voice off, and was so certain that our life would be either continuing as it had, OR becoming even more kid-chaotic. The Littles’ move to Indiana has create a gaping hole that I can’t seem to face. The tears, all the time? Same.

  4. Nadine
    Posted October 10, 2017 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Oh, this. I am reading it as a reminder that often, things are not as bad as we think, but even more so as a reminder to sink into these years and to soak them up. I’m at the other end of that spectrum, reading this as I nurse my five-week-old. Thank you for reminding me what truly matters. <3

  5. Pamela Hunt Cloyd
    Posted October 10, 2017 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    “I truly lived the years with both kids at home. I sank into them, and appreciated them, and loved them.”

    Yes you did! And you are.

    This is so beautiful Lindsey. There have been several “time of my lifes” and it’s so bittersweet to know we are having them.


  6. Posted October 10, 2017 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    This was so lovely, Lindsey. So true about the anticipation and those lines you quotes from Catherine are perfect for your piece, too.

    Still thinking about you guys and the loss of your father-in-law.

  7. Sally willits
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    So glad you’ve made this gigantic adjustment so well. ” As one door opens….”

  8. Sally willits
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Or “One door closes……”❤️❤️❤️❤️