I was working on the computer a couple years back when I received an instant message from Cara. I responded with "So, what are you doing?" and she answered that she was pricing train fares. "To where?" I asked, and she began to list places. I made a joking comment and received the reply. "There's a whole wide wordl out there, and I'm stuck here, in a dorm room!" I could almost hear the wail. In her agitation, she misspelled world, and I messaged back using the same spelling: "Be patient. The whole wide wordl will wait, just as it's waited right along." And she wailed (in brief blasts of instant messaging) her doubts that while the wordl would wait, she was not sure that she could wait to see the wordl. She spoke in complete confidence that I could not possibly understand her impatience. I messaged back. "Of course, I understand. I had the same itchy feet when I was young. Sometimes, I still do."
I don't think that she believed me.
Now, Cara has set off on a big adventure. She is spending spring semester at Daegu University in Korea, studying and teaching English. After weeks of planning and excitement, it is done. She's there. I think that she was getting a little nervous before she left. "Is it possible to be homesick before you even leave home?" she asked. And then she fretted a bit. "All my friends are at college. All my family is here. So why was I so anxious to be over there?" That's my Cara. No matter where her feet are, her eyes are fixed on somewhere else.
It took me until the next morning to figure out what to say. "Cara," I said, "the best advice that I can give you is this: You cannot be in two places at the same time. Pick one place, and be there." You have picked Korea, and you will be there for a time, and that's just fine, because then you will come back, and your family and friends will be waiting for you because that's what families and friends do."
I remember when Cara was a placid and contented baby. If someone had told me that one day, I'd be gently urging that child to have adventures on the other side of the world, I would not have believed it. The idea of that baby being half a world away was inconceivable to me. It would have made me physically ill to think about it. But here we are, all these years later, and I am doing just that.
My children do not need a mommy any more. They do not need a righter of wrongs, a fixer of messes. I do not set their boundaries, and I shouldn't. By this point, they should be able to do that for themselves. It is not my place to tell them what to do, to advise, or direct their lives, or their relationships. They are grown now, and they will determine these things for themselves. But even though I am not a mommy, I am still, and always will be a mother.
A mommy is at the center of things. A mother is more of a spectator, cheering loudly, but staying out of the way. Dylan is involved in his first serious relationship, and Brittany is wonderful. Brianna and Buddy are expecting a baby any minute. Cara is a determined academic who is already planning graduate school. Mike is a working man and an outdoorsman. Stacey is a soldier and she will do as she pleases. They are adults now, with their own lives and their own choices and their own paths to walk, and although I love them no less than I did as children, I love them differently as adults.
I have stood back and watched them leave one by one, and now they are gone. It gets lonely sometimes, and I miss the days when they were home. I smile at the memories of what they were. I have little notes and momentos and pictures, and these things are precious to me. I hold them close to my heart. And when those children come home from their adventures, when they return from all the places that they have been, their family will be waiting, because that is what families do. We will be glad to see them and to hear of their adventures. We will marvel at what they have seen and done and know. We will savor that time together, because Tim and I understand that they are only with us for a while. We will blink and they will be gone off once again. That's the way life works. The pattern was set before time began, and by a hand much greater than our own. We both are sure that He knows what He is doing.
"Be patient. The whole wide wordl will wait, just as it's waited right along." That was my advice to Cara all those months ago. I was right. The whole wide wordl waited for her. And so will her mother.
Debby Hornburg lives in Scandia and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org