I knew it would be crazy – this last summer before college. Summer’s always a little crazy for us anyway. But this summer, with the shopping and paperwork and all of the “lasts” – the last visit with this friend, the last visit with that friend, the last sleepover with discipleship group, the last trip to Sonic, the last night watching Suits and Gilmore Girls, the last drive in her car, the last late night bedroom dance party, the last trip to Tulmeadow for ice cream, the last dinner with grandparents – this summer left me not only exhausted, but emotionally drained. And by drained, I mean sucked dry like an Oklahoma creekbed during the dustbowl. “Tired” doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel.
Looking back, however, I am so grateful for the last couple of weeks we had together. First, Jacquelyn stopped working two weeks before she left, in part so that she could be more available for Faith Quest, our church’s summer camp. I had mixed emotions about Faith Quest happening just a week before she left, but as one of the directors I had to be there; and in the end it was a blessing. As a family, we had little choice but to spend every night together and we ended up enjoying a shared experience. Then, each night we went home (usually after some McFlurry’s) and stayed up late talking….or making rice krispie treats and watching Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer. (No, I have no explanation for that.) In past years, Faith Quest has sometimes been a strain on our family, but this year I believe we had more joy than ever.
The last week before the big move, Doug and I both took some time off work and I tried to schedule work or personal errands during those hours when Jacquelyn was off having a “last” something with one of her friends. We were trying to protect our time as best we could. Of course, as often happens, my plans began to fall apart – particularly at work, where Murphy’s Law seemed to be in full force. I fought the urge to flip out or break down and just kept asking God for help, trusting him with the timing and making adjustments as necessary.
We were careful to protect the time we had set aside for dinners with grandparents, visits with neighbors and last minute shopping. I also made some of Jacquelyn’s favorite meals that week (Tomato Basil Pasta Salad, Chicken Fajitas and, of course, Potato Pancakes) and let her order out one night from her restaurant of choice – which ended up being potato pizza from one restaurant and fried pickles from another! Then, I found out that, on her own, she had decided to devote her last two days entirely to family and packing. She couldn’t have given me a nicer present.
During it all, I could feel our time together running out. In some ways, I felt alot like I did when I was pregnant: the time was coming, she needed to go, it was the right thing to do, but, man, was this gonna hurt! I described it to my mother as being on a train I couldn’t get off. I wanted to plan something special but not too sentimental and sad for our last night. After some prayers, a little divine inspiration and God’s good timing, I was able to arrange a suprise visit with our friends-that-are-like-family, the Davidsons, at Tulmeadow Farm. Jacquelyn knew we were having ice cream, but she didn’t expect to see her friends there…in fact, they had just flown back that day from a trip to Texas, so she wasn’t expecting to see them before she left for college at all! She was surprised and so happy. We enjoyed our ice cream and sat around talking and laughing until it was dark out. It was perfect.
We finished the night off by driving to Doug’s old childhood home in West Simsbury and letting the girls climb on the big rock on the cul-de-sac green, one of their favorite places to play when visiting their grandparents before they moved. On our way home, we drove around with the windows down, blaring our family songs and singing along. Last year, while on our cross country trip, the song Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey kind of became our theme song (mostly due to the line “it goes on and on and on and on”) but since then, it has kind of stuck. We also listened to Party in the USA, The Gambler and Sweet Caroline. The good news is that the sun had set and we were moving, so noone could see us our hear us!
While driving along with my hand out the window in the wind, I suddenly felt like we were on our cross country trip again. I was instantly reminded of all those days and nights on the road together, of all the amazing things we saw and did together. Suddenly, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I’ll admit, I had fun driving around and singing in the car that night, but thank goodness the music was loud…that way noone noticed when I was too choked up to sing. “Come on, Nichole, it’s OK, enjoy these moments. Enjoy them,” I told myself.
We went home to some last minute packing, a little disco dance party in Jacquelyn’s room (um, without Doug, that is) and the new episode of Suits. I was amazed, utterly amazed, at the gift of time God had given us that night…that week…that summer…last summer…her whole life. What a joy it has been to have her with us these last 18 years. What a gift.
So Tip #2: Take, Make and Enjoy the Time – Time is a gift. Give yourself, your son or daughter and your family the gift of time. And when, like me, you find things falling apart all around you and can’t figure out how you are going to get everything done, say a prayer and let God, the creator and keeper of time, empty your days of what doesn’t matter and fill them with what is important.