by rachel tsunami

Last week we turned a corner in our family. On Friday we sent our two oldest children off to college. We don’t think it’s unique or novel. Parents have been doing it for decades. But it’s a first for us, and a ‘passage’ that we have looked toward with mixed emotions.

Molly and Kathryn have moved to Memphis to attend University Of—only 1 ½ hours away. It’s a familiar place, with familiar people—family, and other people we love—people who love them, and they’ll even be living with some of those lovely folks. All in all, it’s a huge comfort zone, and I’m glad for that. It’s a school they could easily have chosen for its advantages even if it had been farther away, but it also has the delightful advantage of being near home. And they expect to be home many weekends (when they can afford the gas).

But it’s a passage nonetheless, and being the predominantly sentimental folks that we are, the whole “leaving” thing has been fraught with tenderness, and meaning, and tradition, and excitement, and a not a little circumstance (as in “Pomp and”). For in spite of all the perks, and the peace we feel about this step in their lives, we realize that things will never, ever be the same for us again. Not really. It’s a bit of a wistful feeling, mixed with courage and faith, at once thrilling and bittersweet, with concentric circles of “if-ing” and “then-ing” swirling about us, and coming back around to land squarely in front of the throne of grace.

The thing is, life is full of many things that can result in the same phenomenon of making things Never Be The Same Again. Many of them are not nearly so pleasant or so filled with positives aspects. I’m grateful.

Fittingly, RoBear finished reading aloud the first Little House book early last week. We had forgotten the poignancy of the very last page, but you’ll see why it touched a deep place in our hearts.

When Laura and Mary had said their prayers and were tucked snugly under the trundle bed’s covers, Pa was sitting in the firelight with the fiddle. Ma had blown out the lamp because she did not need its light. On the other side of the hearth she was swaying gently in her rocking chair and her knitting needles flashed in and out above the sock she was knitting. The long winter evenings of fire-light and music had come again.
Then Pa began to play again the song about Old Grimes. But he did not sing the words he had sung when Ma was making cheese. These words were different. Pa’s strong, sweet voice was softly singing:

“Shall auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Shall auld acquaintance be forgot,
And the days of auld lang syne?”

When the fiddle had stopped singing Laura called out softly, “What are days of auld lang syne, Pa?”
“They are the days of a long time ago, Laura,” Pa said. “Go to sleep now.”
But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa’s fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the fire-light gleaming on his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown fiddle. She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.
She thought to herself, “This is now.”
She was glad that the cozy house, and Pa and Ma and the fire-light and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.