"There is always a moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in."
~ Graham Green
The boxes are scattered throughout the dining room and into the reading corner. Numbered 1 through 6. Taped and ready for the address labels and shipping. They leave tomorrow, but I will have her a few more weeks. Until August 1. I will blink and it will be here.
"Oh, Mom," she laughs. "I'll be home for Christmas. Only four and a half months. It will pass before we know it!"
"Oh, I know." I'm bright. Positive. Filled with loving support and continual encouragement. The wind beneath her wings! I feel a piece of my heart break off.
10,000 miles. Ridiculous! What kind of mother lets her young push off from the nest to go live in a city of 17 million people over 10,000 miles away? I didn't anticipate this day on the April Sunday when she was five years old and her quivering lips told me she needed to be baptized that night because, "I really want to go to heaven, Mom, and I know I have to be baptized to get there."
"Do you think we will be able to fit the storage shelving unit in, Mom? I really need that for the closet." Without thinking, I look and measure and mumble something about no, it won't, surely there will be some sort of shelving system that can be bought there...
It's dangerous there. She is so absent-minded and unaware of the dark side. This day never even crossed my mind years before when we talked almost all night about the trip God had taken her on in prayer--the night I told her to always listen to the Voice and to always say "Yes."
A 16-year-old girl who knows God has called her to a life set apart is challenged by so many things. Normal friendship advice and relationship advice and future college advice and "How to Plan My Life" advice just won't work in the lives of chosen vessels. Hands joined with her father's, we prayed and carefully navigated the questions and turns and large boulders in the path. I was beginning to understand that there was not a book available to me on how to mother a daughter who dreams dreams. My smile stayed bright as I encouraged and pushed and applauded. My heart turned its head when she wanted to talk about "What if?" I closed the door. The day may come, but it wasn't now. No need to borrow time from tomorrow.
An epiphany occurred in my mind the other day. Out of the blue, I realized that I am now the same age my mother was when I married. I stopped peeling the potatoes and turned, startled, to see if anyone was there to feel my terror.
The room whirled as the images of my entire life hurtled past, not stopping to chat or to rest there, just to remind me that while I had been cooking and washing and reading and writing and traveling and cleaning out the closet and making the meal plan for Thanksgiving and ordering homeschool curriculum and holding my head in my hands in exasperation over the to-do list, the years had silently filed out the door, one by one. They left and didn't even say good-by.
And I watch through the same kitchen window my mother watched through as a piece of my heart pulls into the driveway in the silver SUV and I hear the door slam as she calls out, already halfway up the stairs, "I'm only home for a minute."
For a minute, for a minute, for a minute...
The wind captures the ripples of her laughter as they drift back toward my place at the sink and sets them ever so softly in my heart with the whisper, "Don't forget the sound of this."
Jim Croce sang his heart out on the night of September 20, 1973 in the gym of the small-town college from which I would graduate seven years later. He walked out of the back door into the waiting car that drove him 10 minutes to the airport. The pecan trees on the edge of the landing strip snagged the wheels and after only having lived 30 years, Jim was just a memory.
His two-year-old son waited at home for the daddy that didn't come and today says he doesn't remember him. But he remembers his legacy and feels the love because of the song his dad wrote about him that still plays in his mind, his house, and occasionally on the radio. "If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing that I'd like to do, is save every day 'til eternity passes away just to spend them with you..."
Twenty-two years. I have had her with me longer than many. But there is still so much I need to say. So much I haven't had a chance to tell her yet. About how if you let boiled potatoes sit in water too long they get slimy and how to fold a fitted sheet so small that it can fit in a shoebox and how if you put Clorox 2 in your towels in keeps them brighter and adds another few years to their life...you know, stuff that she may need to know on the mission field. 10,000 miles away. Alone.
Who will hear her if she gets sick in the night? Who will be there to make sure she takes her medicine properly every day? Who will be there to help her kill the inevitable creatures that will make their way in from the outside? Who will hug her tight when the whole world is crying hazy, humid, Filipino tears and they are dripping down her face?
I glance at the empty spot beside my pillow where she lay the night we brought her home from the hospital. Two days old. A six-pound, four-ounce bundle of limitless childhood whose days went far past where my eyes could see.
Please, somebody. Please close the door.
(This was originally published by Melani as a blog post on June 4, 2012. Kendra, her daughter, spent 4 ½ months in the Philippines as an Associate in Missions. She returned safely, but more grown up and independent than when she left. She now holds the position of Youth Pastor for The Network in Covington/Mandeville/Loranger/Abita Springs, La. Her mom still misses her.)