It’s been six months since Brooke went off to college. Last year, I was worried she was not ready to fly. Now, she has not only shown that she can fly, she is doing exceptionally well. Over the past several months, our relationship has been changing from my being “Mamma” to to a loving and supportive friend, as I’ve shared in previous Almost Empty Nest posts. I’m drawn to share the heart of this change in roles, which has been akin to standing along side your child’s bike after having taken the training wheels off, helping them on to the bike, watching them wobble a bit, then peddle madly down the road.
I had to pack myself a lunch the other day, and while looking for my lunch bag—Brooke had lost every one I purchased over the past four years—I decided to go rummaging in her room and found the Vera Bradley lunch bag she carried in middle school. Immediately, I was transported back to that time; the idyllic Montessori school she attended with a gentle approach but high academic standards; ponies to brush, a garden to tend, spring festivals, friends to share sleepovers and little girl secrets. Funny how a simple bag can evoke all of that. Mostly though, I was reminded of my daughter before puberty, during what I call the wonder years, and of our adventures together.
Kids can be harsh, and puberty is, well puberty. She refused to carry her Vera Bradley lunch bag to high school, instead she chose a series of black, nondescript satchels, which were followed by brown paper bags because she lost the black bags and embellishment of any kind wasn’t cool. In fact, for a time, most of her clothes were dark and brooding too, stopping just short of Emo, or so she said,—though I’m still not sure I know what Emo is. I was sad to see her beauty hidden under oversized sweat shirts and her beautiful chestnut hair scrunched beneath a beanie. Luckily that didn’t last too long.
I knew not to make a huge deal of her sudden interest in the dark clothes, and beanies, though I kept vigilant. I stood beside her, knowing she was experimenting, finding herself through the onslaught of hormones in which she was awash, along with the increased academic pressure of a new high school, new friends and a new way of being in the world.
I miss my pre-pubescent buddy though; I miss her most dearly. Which is why the Vera Bradley lunch bag touched my heart so profoundly as I lifted it out of the box, it was a bitter sweet feeling, the one that has you wanting to turn back time to have those wonderful feelings again, knowing you can’t, and shouldn’t, even if you could.
Through a gentle veil of tears, I am reminded to bring us back to the point, which is the new young lady emerging before my eyes, the young lady with whom I am now forging friendship, peer to peer. A young lady who now surprises me with her self discipline, and growing confidence. I am impressed by the goals she is beginning to set for herself and the tenacity she puts forth in achieving them. She’s remembering, again, her power. She is now more clear how power works. As her friend, I listen. I step in when needed, or invited, but mostly, I step back to let her work things out on her own, so she can see for her self how strong and capable she really is.
Meanwhile, the Vera Bradley lunch bag sits on my counter, a poignant reminder of her soft little hand in mine, the afternoons she made me “dinner” from her sand box, dressed as a Renaissance princess. How she sat coloring on the floor in my office while I worked. The day to day stuff I was lucky to have been able to enjoy and cherish all the more now that those days are gone.