Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Being True

I am driving to the college, my car packed so full that we had to make portholes between pillows and piles of clothing. I amuse myself by wondering with what profound words I can leave this child. It seems necessary somehow to have an important parting sentiment.

I think about Polonius’ famous parting words to his son Laertes, “This above all: to thine own self be true/And it must follow, as the night the day/Thou canst not then be false to any man." And I think about what I’ve tried to get across to my children their whole lives: Respect yourself and others. Seek balance. Play fair. Look at the big picture. Make good choices. “Make good choices” became a joke among us. A half-joke. We were kidding but we meant it.

You’d think with all of the goodbyes I’ve said in my life, I would be better at it. Most of my married life, we moved a lot. Every time I had built a life that I loved and lived in a house that represented all I had built, we moved. And every time we’d drive away from a place that one last time, I would mean to turn around and look back so that I could store that memory in my brain like a photograph that I would take out and reminisce over. At least that was the plan. But what happened every time was that I was always too busy to look back.

Which was okay. Sometimes it’s better to look ahead.

In the end, we hug somewhat awkwardly, and I say something that is not remotely profound. The words of wisdom I blurt out are, “Have fun.” Like I say, I am bad at goodbyes. Have fun? What kind of lame thing is that to say to your teenager? Do I really want that?

Well, yes, yes I do. Of course I do. Not the kind that hurts anyone, of course, but I do want my children to have fun, happy lives. Are my parting words really that bad? Who knows. These are responsible people who do, by the grace of God, make good choices. Now is not the time to teach them anything I’ve never taught before. So I drive away, thinking of the tall, wonderful, surprisingly self-possessed young person I’ve marveled over lately, and while I am smiling over that, I forget to look back.

And I realize as I am driving away that I’ve just left a person whose job it is to find their own wisdom. Which is, of course, what it’s all about, anyway.

Navajo proverb: “We raise our children to leave us.”


  1. Tammy--

    If you didn't cry, you're a stronger woman than I am.

    We worry when they are out of our immediate reach, but we ARE successful if we raise them to be able to fly on their own.

    As a writer, you might consider making your daughter a "college box." Get a wooden box or a nice cardboard box from Michael's or JoAnn's. Choose photos of your daughter, your family, her room at home, and decoupage them onto the box.

    In the box, put all the notes you WANT to send for the next four years...all your worries, your concerns, your hopes for her.

    It makes a great graduation gift...And it's a way to vent all those pesky motherly feelings.

  2. Your words were most profound my friend. If making our way we forget to "Have Fun," well what is the point?

    But remember that when you get the dry cleaning bill for the toga. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  3. Great post, Tammy. It is apparent your little chick already has a deep well of wisdom from which to draw---all the childhood teaching absorbed into brain and heart and soul. And how proud you must be!

  4. When we sent Joey off to college, he immediately became so homesick! We told him to suck it up! He soon met the love of his life, graduated, married, and now has twins!!

    The rest of the children went willingly to college, but we kept their rooms ready, just in case!

  5. Wrote this after taking my first one, but I've just deposited the second and it went pretty much the same. No tears yet, but am sure that will hit at some point. She just looked so excited when I left her. Judie, I hear that happens, especially with boys for some reason. How wonderful that it worked out so well! Lisa, your words really touched me and I thought of them on the drive. Sioux, what a clever idea. Jules, thanks for the much-needed laugh yet again! I appreciate--as they say down South--all y'all's support!!!

  6. "Now is not the time to teach them anything I’ve never taught before."

    That is wisdom.

  7. Long time again! You're a great writer, but an even better Mother! The best actually! You're kids know it too! So excited for Claire and her great adventure ahead! She will do amazing things! You should feel so proud at the awesome job you've done raising them!
    I really wanted to go and drop the boys' off for college and attend orientation too... but, thought it would be a special memory with their Dad alone. Plus, we both go to parents weekend together shortly thereafter!
    Hey, this will be the first time that Chris will be out numbered by females in his entire life when he gets back! It's a bitter sweet time in our lives! Sure do miss them, but am also so happy for them too! xoxo Holly


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