I’m sitting in the kitchen watching the tree limbs let go of their leaves. Each leaf will end up on the ground, yet each one has a slightly different journey. Some flutter down quickly while others sway back and forth, looking for a gentler landing. I wonder if the trees feel anything at all as each leaf is stripped away.

During these past six weeks many things in my life have been stripped almost bare. Danielle left for her second year at St. Andrews. She shares a lovely flat with three other girls in a choice location. The girls take turns cooking gourmet meal after gourmet meal, pay their rent and share the upkeep duties In fact; neither Brian nor I took her back in September. Danielle’s things were already in storage and whatever was needed for the flat, the girls would buy themselves. A year ago she was a confident teenager going off to school. She is now a very competent adult who just happens to be a student.

In between trips to and from New Jersey, I’ve tried to help our second daughter with her college application process. She really doesn’t need my help, but I am happy that she still feels I am worthy enough to read her essays. I’ve known since she was little that when she leaves next year, she will lunge headfirst into the rest of her life without turning back. That’s why when she turned to me last week and said, “I’ve missed you,” it was all the more poignant.

I’ve had to miss some of the boys’ games, something I really don’t like to do. Hearing about the games afterwards, though, in their own words, has been a gift of a different sort. They see the games with a purity that we can’t grasp on the outside.

There are still pictures from the summer that need to be hung and Halloween decorations that won’t go out this year. Truthfully, I’m enjoying the simplicity of the bare walls and the lack of clutter. The laundry doesn’t get put away like clockwork anymore and the meals have been a bit simpler, but that’s OK, too.

The children know that my absences will ebb and flow over the next few months, even a year. They know that they are my first priority. Yet, they also understand that I have been one of my parents’ top priorities for 47 years and it is now my turn to give back. My mom tells everyone that she has seven children – four by birth and three by marriage. Together, the seven of us will make sure
they have what they need.

Thus. If the trees could feel anything, I imagine it would be a sense of yearning for the leaves that are lost, coupled with an eager anticipation of the beauty that lies ahead in the spring. We are no different, as long we remember to remain with grateful hearts for all we have and all that will be. Worse days may be yet to come, but the better ones always lie just ahead.