There's a moment in everyone's childhood in which we cross the threshold into the big world and stop looking back. It starts, of course, the moment we leave the womb - our interactions with others outside our family are short and controlled at first, then gradually, over the years, we spend more time away from home and family than we do in it. If we're lucky, the childhood years include a home that we want to come back to, a place that feels safe. But even with that, there comes a time to move on. We create our own safety and comfort zone somewhere new.
My mother once got upset because I referred to my dorm room off-handedly as "home." The house I had left was home, she insisted. I know what she meant. But really? Home is where you feel settled at the moment. It's what you expect to find when you open your eyes in the morning. And I'd crossed the threshold and found a temporary home in Mary Ward Hall, third floor. I've had a lot of homes since then, and that house I left has been home to lots of other families since that time.
What I've carried around with me to all these homes is a sense of who I am and where I came from. Like good china. Better than a house, and easier to pack, too.
Annie is standing at the threshold, and not inclined to glance back. These last few months we've watched her turn her attention out into the world, gaze focused farther each day. Far away college dreams, boyfriend, international plans. This birthday weekend is all about friends, and we had to kidnap her last night for an hour in between work and a night at the movies to even be able to give her birthday cards and money and wish her well.
Next weekend is the last weekend before she heads to Europe for the whole summer, and where I once had to literally pry her 10 year-old fingers off me and push her into a car to go on a fabulous three day adventure with her closest friends, she now has not even a hint of wistfulness about what she leaves behind.
And although I will miss her both this summer and in the future, I could not possibly be prouder or more happy for her. She knows what she wants, and she's going for it. She has made wonderful choices for herself, and worked hard to achieve her goals. She is a good friend to have, a fine family member, a superb part of the greater community. She takes care of herself and those around her.
In short, she has her good china packed, and is ready to go.