The send off

While I have traveled widely, the most recent trip took the most preparation — 18 years, in fact. Total distance traveled turned out to be a bit more than 2,200 miles, but the physical distance was far from the point. We launched our youngest daughter into the newer nest of college in Ithaca, N.Y.

Sad? Bittersweet? Tears?

Maybe I’m limited, but all I felt was happiness. I will miss her like crazy — the other night owl in the house, the one who could tell me about any movie, the teen ready to explain the current trend I wasn’t yet aware of. Oh, yes, I miss her.

I won’t miss the pile of shoes at the backdoor that blocked the closet where they were supposed to be or the less than enthusiastic responses to clean the litter box or help with yard work. But now the number of people who do those things is down to two. So, yes, I will particularly miss her in the January wind and ice of a dog walk.

The concept of “empty nesters” does not sit well with me. The nest in Lynnhurst will be here for her for years to come. Dan and I continue to live in the house, so I defy anyone to call it empty! I’ve tried to cobble together something along the lines of “parents-with-child-at-college-who-comes-home-for-holidays-and-the-summer,” but it sounds more like an elevator speech than a tidy label.

Hannah began the conversation of this move to adulthood, or departing the nest, early in the year. “My childhood is almost over.” More specifically, “My childhood will be over on July 15.”

We weren’t driving to Ithaca until Aug. 23. So, why were the dates more than a month apart? If she was looking for a specific date, wouldn’t her 18th birthday in April have been more fitting?

Harry Potter, the final movie, long after the final book, marked the end of childhood in her mind and soul. She had grown up with Harry, Hermione, and Ron since I started reading the books out loud at night to her and her sister in August of 1999. Hannah was six. We read all the books together until number 5, which Julia, wiser than Hannah by three whole years and always protective of her younger sib, deemed it too dark for Hannah. She’d have to wait a bit, grow into it.

Our cross country vacations in the minivan became epic journeys with Jim Dale rereading the books to us on tape or CDs. On a flight home from Amsterdam, I read one book aloud for five hours, since the electricity was out in our section of the plane meaning no movie or music.

At a point in Hannah’s life when sleep didn’t come easily, she listened to the same Harry Potter CDs every night. It may have been a frightful book, but the ending was known and therefore understandable. Peaceful really. If you know the ending, you aren’t as scared.

The midnight book parties at our local bookstore spun into the midnight movie extravaganzas. We lived the story with Harry. Hannah stayed up until 4:30 one morning this summer to be one of the first million people to sign on to Pottermore, the newest J.K. Rowling adventure. Bless her; she signed me up, too.

Then July 15, 2011 came. She was there for the final moment, dressed as Rita Skeeter, as her childhood ended at 2:30 a.m. It was one wild ride. Much more venturesome than the 1,100 mile trek in the Prius to Ithaca.

But then isn’t parenting one wild ride? That didn’t end on July 15. We hail the coming adventures.

Welcome Jerde is a new columnist for the Southwest Journal. She lives in Lynnhurst with her husband, Dan Berg, a dog, two cats, and occasionally, Hannah, a college student. Welcome writes, travels, coordinates service projects
and works at Broders.