21 Mar Roots and Wings
At this very minute I mean these words literally. I am currently on a flight half way around the world traveling back home to Cincinnati from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I have had an incredible week visiting my 21 year old daughter who is studying abroad in South America this semester. Indeed, a lucky girl! However, I of course have spent weeks waiting to see her and countless hours worrying. Argentina is damn far away! But there she was…this grown up beautiful daughter of mine whizzing her way through the streets of Buenos Aires. Who knew she could speak fluent Spanish…who knew she could figure out a ridiculously complicated subway system…or every bar, restaurant and bus that gets you to the wine country or the beaches of Uruguay? As a surprise, I drained the Frequent Flyer account at the very last minute and brought her older sister along for the journey. I also know that even at a young 50 years old I wasn’t staying out until 3am. They would absolutely need each other! The week flew by and these are days I will forever cherish. Take advantage of the moments. Did I also mention that it is summer in South America now? Just to see blue skies makes every day glorious after a long, long winter.
I hate goodbyes. For a brief moment I felt like the kindergarten bus was pulling away when we left tonight for the airport. I am sure my daughter’s sadness also comes from saying goodbye to a beautiful hotel, good hot running water and clean sheets as she headed back to her student housing (which really is quite lovely—who needs a kitchen anyway)?
But I here I sit with my iPad and a glass of wine gearing up for a ten hour flight home with my thoughts of what this “mothering” thing is all about. It’s the emptiness of letting go, yet at the same time not wanting to. I think it is the hardest job and greatest job of all. Letting go is really letting go, and allowing them to live, learn and experience life for themselves.
I have often talked about life lessons and the ones that really seem to hit home at this midway point in my life. My children have heard these words said over and over again, but tonight on this flight around the globe they seem more real than ever. When my son was born nearly 16 years ago a dear family friend of ours wrote me a letter. I still have it in his baby box! She said, “ The greatest gift we can give our children is roots and wings.”
I have genuinely and consciously tried to give them deep roots. They know where they come from. Their Jewish identity is strongly grounded. They know the love of their parents, grandparents and more than anything the unconditional love they have for each other. They are nestled in soil that is firm and strong and unwavering. Believe me, it will take more than a gale force wind to rip the roots from this ground. I have always said, “with roots you will have wings….to fly, to soar, to adventure and to build your own life. The wings belong to you.”
Sometimes those words are easy to say, especially when your kids are young and you can’t imagine them living a half a world away or graduating college and living across the country not just down the hall. But Wings are Wings and if we get it right our children will always know we will catch them in a strong wind. Even better than that, we will cheer for them at every new height. And if we really pay attention you know that even at 50 it’s never too late to discover your own “roots and wings.” However, I am pretty certain I would be lost somewhere right now under the Buenos Aires subway tunnel. There are wings here!
Thank you to my incredible daughters for guiding me and showing me the real lessons of a letter written nearly 16 years ago. Thank you for letting me go home from the bar at midnight. Thank you for loving each other. At 30,000 feet my wings are always right beside you.