Saturday morning. Our house is quiet. Arielle is home for Easter, and Adrian is asleep in his room after last night’s tough loss to North Atlanta in a cold hard rain. Our little family is all here now…intact, safe, warm. “How many more mornings will we have like this?” I wonder. Tonight is prom night. Adrian’s graduation is a few weeks away. Arielle has decided to close the chapter on Washington, D.C. and move to New York City. Change is most definitely afoot. I get up, make coffee and read the papers all to myself on the sun porch — my favorite room in the house we’ve lived in for 23 years, the place where we chose to raise our two children. And as I read, there, in The Wall Street Journal is a profile on Francine Prose. Called “The Art of the Meal” it’s a Q&A with the author and her partner, artist Howie Michaels, in which they talk about the life they share today in an old farmhouse in upstate New York.
The writer knows well the place where we are now. In fact, her words on letting go reached deep into my heart 18 years ago when she penned an essay for Family Life magazine entitled, “Every Step They Take.” An eloquent account written by a young mother experiencing the pleasure…and the pain…of watching her sons grow. “Had I saved that article?” I asked myself, and ran upstairs to see if I did. Sure enough there it was, in Adrian’s baby book of all places — the book I started but never completed because, well, parenting got in the way. And now he’s a man who’ll be leaving for college in a matter of months. Mike and I have spent countless hours talking about this moment. The time when our last child flies the nest and we must find our way without them here. Suddenly I more fully understand why my husband has taken such fancy to a little brown wren who has built her nest in the back of his Rhino at the farm. There are five tiny eggs in there and Mike tiptoes through the garage lest he disturb her. For now he refuses to drive the 4×4 — not until every egg has hatched — and so he walks wherever he needs to go on the property, tools in hand.
Prose writes, “Children are born leaving us. Carefully programmed into the system are the tiny incremental steps by which they will make their way — crawling, walking, driving. This is a basic element of the life cycle, common to every species; watching a swallow who had nested on our porch cajoling and then hectoring her babies into taking their first shaky flights, I couldn’t help wondering if the mother bird had any…regrets.”
For our parent friends, and those who may one day embark on this wondrous journey, we’ll have this in common: Our children will grow up. We will draw deep breaths as they wobble around and begin to take those first steps — then keep on walking. They will fill us with infinite amounts of love. We will know nothing greater than giving them life. Treasure your time together, watch with pride as your baby birds fly away, and be happy in the knowledge that it was you who put them here and that your job was well done.