Sign Posts and Tail Lights

highland-city
And just like that, she was gone…

When your first born comes into the world, everything, EVERY-THING, changes.  Your relationship with the world changes.  You’re there when you bring her home.  You’re there for the first diaper change.  You are literally her world.

You spend years emotionally preparing for that moment you’ll watch her walk across the stage at her high school graduation.

And then one day, seemly out of no where, she does just that: walks across the stage and collects her high school diploma.  Just like that, she’s an adult.  All those years culminated in 15-seconds.  And at that point, our society pretty much says, “you’re a high school graduate, you’re an adult.”  And thus, she was.

There are other moments along the way that portend those milestones.  The first time I watched her drive away in her own car really hit home to me the notion that she was growing up.  As I watched those tail-lights get smaller and eventually disappear, I instinctively knew there was a metaphor there for me.

The college visits, applications, acceptances and eventually the moves-in are right up there with those tail lights.  All small signs that the world is getting larger, inch by inch, like unnoticed highway mile marker numbers increasing almost imperceptibly until you realize you’re no longer at “mile 1.”

Today holds another one of those sign posts.

A little less than a month ago, she finished her last undergraduate class.  She walked out of the final exam and was formally done with college.  Just like that.  Another chapter of her life was over, although “over” the way a football team kills the clock in victory formation; her school has only one commencement, so she has to wait to “officially” be a graduate. Today she collects her graduation present from us: 7-weeks in Europe.  France and England, and wherever else her wanderlust carriers her.

It’s something we’ve thought about for months and intellectually knew it was going to happen from the time the idea sprang to life to became “real,” but it was so far off.  I mean, it was a graduation present, and good lord that’s not going to happen for months now.  Until it was here.

Today, I will bring her to Logan Airport’s Terminal E, get her where she needs to go, so she can get her boarding passes, luggage checked, and be screened through security.  Just like that, somewhere overhead lights on an aircraft wing will rise up from the ground and become increasingly smaller until they eventually disappear.

She’s undeniably an adult.  Her world is becoming a larger place.  Five months from now, she will again have her name announced and she will again walk across a stage to collect a diploma.  Officially closing another chapter of her life, opening to a new, as yet undecided, one.

It’s been a long time since I was her world and I knew it had been from the first time I saw those tail lights disappear: that reminder it’s a parents job to teach their kids to be independent adults, capable of having their own lives and building their own world.  She’s done just fine with that, thank you very much.  Today, I’m reminded of that feeling all over again and I’m hopeful that no matter how big her world gets, there will still be part of it there for us.