Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Place to Come To

I believe it is important for people to know that they have a place to come to.  When all else fails, they have a place to go, where people know them and love them unconditionally.  I found this letter that I wrote to my daughter just before she went to college.
Dear Erin,

So, you are going off to college.  It wasn’t so long ago that you were riding the school bus for the first time.  You looked small and grown up all at once.  Seems like yesterday that we were sitting at the table working on your first school project.  It involved cootie-bugs that we put together.  Then there was the sand dune project where we mixed sand and glue and shaped a miniature Jockey’s Ridge equipped with hang gliders. And there must have been several that involved beans; beans with sunlight, beans without sunlight; beans with water, beans without water.  But best of all was the rotten tooth project. Your teacher didn’t like it but I loved it. 

I remember going to your cafeteria at lunchtime and eating lunch with you.  And then, seemingly overnight, it wasn’t cool anymore to eat with Dad.  But don’t worry, I understood.  I remembered how it was. 

Now here you are, accepted to East Carolina; a college girl, almost, and getting ready to leave home.  I am reminded of one of my favorite plays, Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town”.  If you recall, Emily, one of the main characters, dies and comes back to relive one particular day in her life.  Once this day is over, she has to leave earth for good.  Before she leaves, she says good-by in this way:

            “Good-bye world.  Good-bye Grovers Corners…Mama and Papa.  Good-by to clocks ticking and mama’s sunflowers.  And food and coffee.  And new ironed dresses and hot baths and sleeping and waking up.  Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.  Do human beings ever realize life while they live it- every, every minute?”

Emily was going to miss the small things that, when added all together, gave life and living its flavor and character.  And in turn, it’s the small things we miss when someone grows up and goes their own way in life.

When you are away at college, we want you to know that we will be missing all those small things that gave our home the flavor of you.  When we say good-by to you, we will be saying good-bye to 17 years of laughter and tears, hair bows and brushes, and fruity smelling bath soap; clothes on the floor of your room and carpet stains; knees on the dinner table; stuffed animals and baby dolls, swing sets and swimming lessons; instant messenger and telephone calls; and good-night kisses.

Each summer we will be saying hello to you, a young woman, who is a little more independent and knowledgeable than when we last saw you.  In our hearts, we will carry those small, ordinary facts of your time with us as a child.  And so, no matter how independent, no matter how smart you become, you will always be our child.

Once, about 15 years ago, I worked late at the office.  When I got off work it was about 8:00 p.m. and dark outside.  As I drove up the street to our house, I saw, silhouetted in the window your little head, watching me as I drove up.  I cannot tell you how that lifted my spirits, to know that I was missed and loved.   

And so, if you ever feel lonely at school or feel that there is no one who cares, know that there is a family here that misses you, who love you and that we wait at the window for you to return.

Love,

Dad

(Erin went on to graduate with a Bachelor's and Master's Degree).

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