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Yesterday morning, just as I was finally getting a live person on the telephone to answer an insurance question, I heard the doorbell ring and Sophie begin to bark her head off. Not wanting to lose this chance to actually speak to a person who could actually (well, maybe) provide some answers to my pressing issues, I ignored Sophie and focused on the person on the other end of the line. Ten minutes later, with all queries addressed, Sophie was still barking and I finally went downstairs to see what was causing this agitation. And, there on the just-washed front porch, waited this:
My daughter Elizabeth’s battered old suitcase, the one she shipped home from London before setting off for Istanbul and Cappadocia. Seeing this bashed up suitcase sitting expectantly on the porch, looking for all the world like a tired traveler in search of the rest and comfort that can only come from arriving home at last, made me cry.
Years ago, I had read the Lebanese-American poet Kahlil Gibran’s book of verse, The Prophet, and taken his words about children very much to heart:
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.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Ever since she was eight, we’ve been putting Elizabeth on planes and trains and sending her off on adventures she has planned and asked for. Last year, she was in London completing her graduate studies, and she had advised us that she would not be home very much. She intended to see more of Europe, to pack in as much travel as possible – and she kept her word. The old days of: call-as-often-as-possible-so that-we-can-know if: you are okay, you are eating properly and getting rest, you are making sure to do laundry/brush your teeth/take your vitamins, you are really okay…and happy..and know that we love you/think of you/miss you – those days are over. She is an adult now, and at 24 she comes and goes as she pleases, she is living the life we have always hoped she would live.
But, seeing that suitcase made me cry, because I knew that Elizabeth was on her way home. She will not tarry here once she lands in New Jersey, but, for a week or so, she will once again grace our table, be there to share coffee with on the porch, be in our house when we turn off the lights and bid everyone goodnight.
That poor, old, busted-up suitcase, Elizabeth’s trusty companion for the past year, was such a welcome sight!
Elizabeth, at the Alhambra de Granada , Spain. June, 2013