Today, a new baby came home next door. Pat has a beautiful grandchild, Emily a splendid son: Ryan. I was outside, grilling chicken as they arrived. So I grabbed a quick peak at the little guy. He is perfect, just as his daddy described him.
Emily and I reminisced about a warm June day 18 years ago, when she met the newborn that I brought home: Annie Eleanor Grapentine. My beautiful daughter, who is now all grown up and, yes, off to college this month (St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.)
It seems such an incredibly short time ago that I carried my second child into our home. Actually, I think Carl must have done so, as we have photographic evidence of same. We'd only been on Ridgeland Avenue a week, having determined we needed an entire new home in which to welcome our tiny girl.
OK. She wasn't all that tiny. At 9lbs, 15 ounces, Jonathan proclaimed her "Queen of the Babies" during her brief visit to the nursery. But, compared to her big brother, all 4.5 years of him, she seemed rather delicate and fragile to us.
Of course she was. And wasn't. As all babies, and children and adults are. And aren't.
Delicate and strong, all at once, she was loved, oh so very loved, from her first breath. And she still is, even as she is now 400 miles away in a new place.
There were some hard times in the beginning, in her babyhood. The Midrash says all beginnings are hard. Beginning to be is hard. Bright lights and cold and wet and colic and words. Beginning to be a parent is hard. Confusion and crying and deciphering and sleeplessness. All of these things baby Ryan and his mommy have to navigate, along with first smiles, rolling over, laughter, words, walking and, 18 years later, leaving.
Leaving for college, beginning to be a grownup is a hard beginning, too. Homesickness and loneliness and independence and new, new, new. There will be compensations, I keep promising her: deep conversations, deep friendships, outlandish fun, freedom. But in the beginning, new is hard for most of us.
This is new for me, too. Annie, our youngest, is the first to leave the nest. It's hard, letting her go, the not knowing and the missing. There are compensations, people promise me. And, yes, though I miss her terribly I am enjoying the slower pace of a 3 person family, with less schlepping and cooking!
But there is only one compensation worth watching your child go: knowing that she has moved to a lovely campus full of kind and thoughtful people who are supporting her as she grows into the kind, smart, funny, beautiful young woman she is and will be. :-)