August 30, 2014

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Notes from Elsewhere

My 13-year-old daughter left for Washington, DC, at 5:15 a.m. on June 9. The scene in the school gym was a curious combination of joy and tension. The 7th and 8th graders from our small-town Indiana school clustered in small groups comparing notes about what they were taking and expecting, while parents negotiated the complex demands of communicating love, encouragement, last-minute advice and not too much anxiety, without crossing the subtle line between acceptably and unacceptably embarrassing their children.

I didn't understand at first why this particular school trip had my stomach in such a tight knot. Presbyterian summer camp lasts longer - and there's no cell phone contact. As I watched the 13 and 14-year-old's board the bus, visibly engrossed in their own web of relationships and experiences, I realized she was about to have a big, profound, maybe even life-changing experience, completely apart from us. Unlike school - which is in a familiar building, just down the street by comparison with the nation's capitol, this experience can only be imagined as remote. Unlike her sports, which I don't play, but do watch, this experience can only remain invisible to me. However much or little of it I get to share will come only through the medium of conversation, and maybe some photos.