Slice of Life Tuesday: When your kid takes off for the other side of the world…

Slice of Life Tuesday is hosted by Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers
Back to slicing on Tuesdays! It’s been a month or so since I last wrote a slice of life on Tuesday – time I’ve spent with my family, holidaying here and there,  reading the stack of books I’ve gathered, keeping my writer’s notebook going,  dreaming up a “new and improved” school year…and just being.  Once the school year begins, that seems like something so very hard to do! School opens in a week, and I stepped into my room yesterday…but that is next week’s slice. Today’s slice is one that has been itching itself to be written about, so here goes:
      On July 27th. our daughter boarded a flight to Cairo, Egypt.  There, she would be continuing her studies in mastering the Arabic language for some weeks before heading to Beirut where she would be conducting research for her dissertation. Then it was on to London to finish the academic year.  We may possibly see her for a few days before London, but that was still uncertain. In other words, Elizabeth was off and it would be quite some time before we would see her again.
     In the weeks leading up to her departure, we’d spent time in Manhattan museuming and having more wine and iced coffee than is perhaps wise on random weekday afternoons.  Every time I headed back to New Jersey after one of these excursions, I’d think to myself, “Now THAT was a great day! what a great kiddo we have…I am going to miss her.”    As July 27th. neared, we moved her things out of her grad school digs and back home.  It was strange to see all the “Elizabeth things” back in our house again – her posters, framed  pictures of undergrad days, collection of funky earrings and  necklaces.  For a few days we drank morning coffee on the porch and shopped for long sleeved shirts and modest skirts – her retro outfits and New York City girl clothes would have to be left behind for her months in the Middle East.  As we stored away her dresses and jeans and sweaters and t-shirts, we talked about where she’d bought this or that – the clothes were like a road map of the paths she’d traveled:  a t-shirt from this concert, a skirt from that flea market, a coat from some vintage store in a part of the East Village I’d never even heard of.   This kid had been to some interesting places.
     Even though we are used to Elizabeth traveling (she’d flown all by herself to visit my parents in London at eight, after all), this trip seemed different.  I could not put my finger on the reasons why I felt it was so, but I did.  This trip seemed like something new.  The last time she had been in the Middle East, she had been part of an Arab/Israeli  activist group – trying to document and publicize the effects of the forced Palestinian evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and other sites.  She’d been detained and tear gassed, and she’d come down with the swine flu … and we spent the whole time she was away worried and scared.  But, she came back and life resumed.   Why was this trip so different?
     July 27th. was a beastly hot day in New Jersey – but the temperature in Cairo had hovered at 103 for the past few weeks, so we counted our blessings and did the last of our running around in the 90 degree heat (enjoying the conditioning available everywhere).  At last, it was time to get to the airport.  Elizabeth was focused and ready.  Anything I thought to remind her about, she’d already done or had in hand.  As we made our way through Jersey traffic, never a pleasant endeavor,  I kept one discreet eye on the rear view mirror – glancing at Elizabeth now and then.  Already, she seemed far  away – clearly, she was thinking about the journey, the weeks of work and study and travel and experiences that lay ahead.   Already, I felt, she had left us.   The hustle and bustle of the airport felt weird to me; I usually love people watching – tearful goodbyes and cheerful reunions, bored passengers passing the time in various ways are usually endlessly fascinating to me…but not this time.  This time there was just one traveler who had my complete attention.   
     As we neared the security checkpoint, Elizabeth was all business.  All of a sudden, there was a crush of people who needed to get the attention of one very harried looking young lady.  New Yorker that she is, Elizabeth managed to get ahead of everyone and make her way through.  We waited until we could no longer see her –  there was one last wave goodbye before she passed through the metal detectors and then on to her gate.  I felt rather foolish standing there, hoping to catch another glimpse of her blue dress.  My husband was waiting – patient about my reluctance to leave just quite yet, but impatient to beat the rush hour traffic home.  So, we turned and left.
Elizabeth, checking in…
Waiting for security clearance
      Weeks and many adventures later, we received this picture from Elizabeth.  She had been to visit the oasis at Siwah and had loved being in the desert.  She told us about the almost perpendicular road up the sand dunes in an SUV going at breakneck speed to maintain traction.  She told us about seeing starry night skies that were unbelievable beautiful.  And she talked about something her father had said about how he felt at one with nature in the mountain lakes of his beloved Adirondacks.  In the vastness of the desert, Elizabeth said, you feel instead your singularity  –  your individuality.  It occurred to me then that this is what I felt was different about this trip Elizabeth had taken.  The “something new” that I had been feeling was, really, the knowledge that my kid was now an adult – she was forging ahead on a path all her own, most of which I would never fully understand or experience myself.  Elizabeth had come into her singularity.


Elizabeth, Siwah Oasis, Egypt.

As I finish up this rather lengthy slice, I remember this poem…which I think I now (finally) get.

On Children
 Kahlil Gibran
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.


13 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday: When your kid takes off for the other side of the world…

  1. Wow. To be the mother of that person in that final gorgeous photo. Congratulations! And hugs. Sounds like you had such special times before the leave taking, and I know you're proud of this singularity. It doesn't mean being a parent is easy.When my daughter left for college, I was colleagues with two other teachers also with daughters leaving, and we started meeting for drinks now and then. Five years later, my daughter is working in LA, another young woman is starting grad school in Paris, and the other is teaching in Thailand. And my friends and I still meet for drinks! Good to have people who understand both the pride and the missing and the ways we ourselves keep moving on.

  2. I love your words, Tara. They speak for so much of what we with adult children have felt, do feel. I am reminded of the quote responding to the decision to have children. " It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." I think you just showed us that in your capturing of this moment in your life. I love this: "As we made our way through Jersey traffic, never a pleasant endeavor, I kept one discreet eye on the rear view mirror – glancing at Elizabeth now and then. Already, she seemed far away – clearly, she was thinking about the journey, the weeks of work and study and travel and experiences that lay ahead. Already, I felt, she had left us." The photos are great to see, & that last one, to see your daughter in that is special, Tara. Thank you for sharing this special time.

  3. Your post strikes emotions in me as a reader and as a parent on many levels. Like you, I am the mom to very independent, strong and self reliant children. On every level, they make me so very proud but I can, at times, be a bit wistfull for the days when they needed me for more than "refueling" before they take off on another adventure. Interestingly, you Kahil Gibran quote has also been a framework for my own mothering. It meant that I dropped them off at college after checking things out and looking around, but without unpacking for them. It means that I fill with tears of pride when they conquer some new adventure on their own and I too treasure those sips of wine and iced coffees while they are refueling. You certainly are, as you should be, one proud mamma.

  4. "Elizabeth had come into her singularity." What a perfect line to describe what happens to adult children. I'm with Anita. This post hits home as the parent of adult "children". I love mine as the independent adults they are…but there is something wistful in my thinking….Truly, I love this slice.

  5. Oh my gosh and I have been upset because my daughter has gone to college 45 minutes away. The next time I am feeling sorry for myself I will think of you and your strength. Tammy

  6. This is a beautifully crafted slice. I can tell it comes from your depths. There are so many lines to treasure. I especially like the one where you say there is only one traveler that has all your attention this time. Your pictures complement that line perfectly, and it shows the tug of your mother-daughter connection. An incredible human has come through you into the world, and the world is clearly a better place for having her.

  7. As I was reading, Tara, I kept thinking about how I cannot imagine having my little one so far away. And then you closed with Gibran's poem, which serves as a reminder to me to hold fast to these days.May you continue to receive pictures and happy updates!

  8. Tara, my heart aches for the miles between you and your daughter, but you are so wise in realizing she is now on a journey of her own making. The poem is beautiful and so fitting.

  9. Oh, Tara. I can't even imagine. What a wonderful women you have guided and raised into singularity! I had goosebumps reading about your goodbye at the airport. I smiled as my eyes scanned the gorgeous photograph of Elizabeth in the desert. I had tears streaming down my cheeks as I read the poem. An emotionally packed slice!

  10. It's so hard but so wonderful watching your children grow up. Sometimes I wish I could stop them at certain ages just for a little while, just till I was ready for them to move on to the next age and experience. I'm sure you are so proud of your daughter. She sounds like an amazing person.

  11. Wow – what an adventure for all of you. I am amazed at how small the world is for our children these days and hopeful that this will lead to a broader understanding of life from many perspectives.

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