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Friday, Aug 29, 2014
Columnists

Hill: Trepidation as the grands take flight

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The text announced she was taking off on the adventure of her young life.

The eldest granddaughter was on her way to Paris, then to Geneva and then to London, where she will spend the spring semester of her junior year at Wellesley in foreign study at King’s College.

It’s times like this that I am incredibly proud — and terrified.

Why can’t she stay a little kid? Why does she have to be so adventurous? Independent?

The answer, of course, is that kids grow up. They blossom. Ultimately, they become adults that we still worry about.

And, let’s face it, they leave us behind.

It’s nature’s way.

She is the second grand to leave the nest. She left for Boston almost three years ago. But this foreign trip with no “adults” around is a dramatic step into adulthood, one that none of us who love her is completely comfortable with.

The eldest, the first of five and the eldest grandson, left almost four years ago. He will graduate from Florida State University in the spring.

It was wrenching when he left, but not as wrenching as this.

This isn’t Tallahassee, for heaven’s sake.

This is Europe!

As they march blithely into their future, parents — and grandparents — continue to worry while they also wonder where the time went.

The time when you had them in your arms, in your house, in your car, under your control in the same neighborhood, the same town — and in the same time zone as you.

Conversations now often start: “I remember when … ”

In the case of the girl, I remember holding her in my arms as 1999 became 2000 trying to explain why the moment required a midnight walk outside in the chill air to absorb the historic change that one could neither feel nor see.

And I remember chasing the boy as a toddler down the aisles of Burdine’s children’s department. He thought it was great fun, hide and seek.

I was cursing myself for attempting the shopping trip and was not amused then — but laughed about it later as the story was told and retold.

I reflect on these memories because for the first time since the first grand was born, they will not all be together for Christmas.

This year the cousins’ picture — a traditional and treasured gift to grandparents — was taken on Thanksgiving while everyone was home.

We are a fortunate family in that we all live in the area. I am particularly fortunate because I’ve been able to watch the grands grow; to laugh when my kids suffered through paybacks; and to be proud and amazed, frankly, at what good parents they are. (Those are not skills they learned from me.)

We have been able to remain close.

Imagine the parents of even just a generation ago without airplanes, telephones — certainly not text, Skype, email, Facebook, Twitter and all the other modern communications technology that we enjoy — saying goodbye to a child not knowing if they would ever see him or her again.

Modern technology provides us with amazing opportunities to keep in touch, but it also informs us about how dangerous the world can be.

Which is the problem with the girl going to Europe.

Worry doesn’t diminish when your kids are grown and settled and have kids.

Not at all. The worry just multiplies.

I’m not complaining, mind you.

But I still remember a poetic and completely unrealistic Facebook status update that the girl’s father posted when they left her at college the first time.

“Boston, please take care of Emily.”

I know how he felt then — and feels now.

You want to see them reach for the stars.

But only if they can do it from the soft, warm and safe cocoon of the nest within arm’s reach at all times.

Much as we wish for that, we know that it just can’t happen.

So we hug them tight, wish them well and watch them soar, our hearts pounding with equal parts fear and awe.

“She’s in Paris,” the latest text from my daughter says.

Relief — and then concern.

They speak French in Paris. How will she get along?

Then I remember, so does she.

Bon voyage, baby. Bon voyage. Oh, and Joyeux Noël!

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