Sunday, September 02, 2012

Summer Ends

I spent the last week soaking up nature with four lovely women, and occasionally worrying about the most important man in my life, who we left to face his first week of college alone. It was one of those weeks that seems long and mundane while it's happening (though in this case interspersed with moments of sublime beauty), but ends with a shock, and the realization that something has profoundly changed.

My daughters, seven years apart in age, seemed closer than ever during this trip. For the first time in my memory, flawed as it is, I could see a friendship emerging between them. Patience and genuine affection made not only fleeting appearances, but sustained visitations. They appeared to delight in each other's company even to the point that the adults were kept at arm's length for extended periods, the privacy of which makes me hesitate to write about it here. It was clear to me that, for this week at least, they were sisters in every sense of the word, and I loved every minute of it.

This wasn't their first trip without their brother, but knowing that he was at a turning point in his life might have brought them a little closer together. Even though he's still living at home, it's possible that they both sense that his life is starting to diverge from theirs. I think we all felt a little in awe of the fact that Cody was breaking new ground while we were tracing footsteps that we had laid down many times before. And for Maddie, there is also perhaps the realization that her sister is only a couple of years away from heading down the same path as her brother.

Despite any misgivings we might have had about leaving him to face this week alone, Cody survived it relatively unscathed. He is now officially a college student, and seeing his excitement is extremely gratifying, especially in contrast to the abject terror he seemed to be feeling before we left. He seems to be settling in just fine, and as parents, we're settling into our role as auditors (a class cancelled in the first week of school??).

So maybe profound is too strong a word to describe the change this week ushered in. This weekend, after all, has been fairly ordinary. Doing yard work with Cody, making dinner, other chores around the house, family movie night, the usual sibling rivalries back in full force ... all seems back to normal. Something is indeed different, though, which makes me wonder if the change is more internal than external. I can sense that something in our family dynamic has shifted ever so slightly. I can't quite put my finger on it, which is a little unnerving, because if there's anything more uncomfortable than change, it's ambiguous change.

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