Where Are You Going . . . ?

where--layers--no layers1A small girl, racing towards life.

A mother, astounded by joy and love.

The words of a poignant folk song, reminding us that such days are fleeting.

Where are you going, my little one, little one,
Where are you going, my baby, my own?
Turn around and you’re two,
Turn around and you’re four,
Turn around and you’re a young girl going out of my door.

Some years ago, I took this photograph of the two of them, mother and daughter, my sister and my niece.

Today, we’ve turned around and that little girl is eighteen years old. Quite soon, she’ll be going out of the door, to university, to adulthood, to life.

You’ve seen it happen, with the children in your lives. All the usual clichés apply—how did that happen? Where did the time go? Why, it seems like only yesterday . . .

This girl holds a huge place in our family. My sister wanted her so much and finally, finally at 40, became a mother. This girl is the only child in the family, the only grandchild—she’s gotten a lot of advice, and a lot of guidance, a lot of mother-henning, and a lot of lectures from a family of teachers.

And, in spite of it all, she turned out great!

She is smart, very smart, and curious. Her favorite courses are those with the toughest teachers, who push her hardest.

She is strong, very strong. She has made decisions about her physical health and fitness, and she sticks with them. She has thought through her values and convictions, and sticks to them.

She is funny, a smart aleck, and quick-minded, very quick.

She is mature, and confident, and stubborn.

She doesn’t like to ask for help. She doesn’t like to appear weak or unsure. She doesn’t like mean people.

Yes, in those things, it’s clear—she belongs to us, for sure!

Because she is smart, and strong, and quick, she doesn’t need advice from me but I’m her aunt. I believe that giving advice is in my job description!

So, here we go. Remember Polonius. Remember Laertes. Remember to be true to thine own self.

Remember that the tough teachers are the best, and know that life is a tough teacher.

The world is a tough place at times, but facing it you will help you grow stronger, and strong is what you want to be:

Adversity poses problems.

Problems demand two things—resilience and solutions.

If I could wish one thing for you it would be that you are always able to face the difficulties of life with resilience, to bounce back, to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.

Resilience allows you to hold your head high and get past drama, to discover solutions rooted in your values. The solutions may make it necessary to ask for help to solve problems. That’s okay—knowing when, and who, to ask for help is not a weakness.

The solutions you find will build in you the confidence and maturity to face new problems with the knowledge that they, too, can be surmounted, with intelligence, humor, and kindness. And resilience.

So, Emily-at-18, where ARE you going?

The folksong is poignant, and it focuses on loss.

We haven’t lost a thing. That baby girl was adorable but we’ve gained with every year that the girl has moved toward adulthood.

Wherever you choose, Emily, go with the knowledge that we’ll be there with you, still astounded by joy and love after all these years. You may be going out of our door, but never out of our lives or hearts.

The Ugly Duckling Season

IMG_1403You know how every young person goes through an awkward stage? Not an adorable child any longer but not quite grown into the beauty she or he will become? You remember the heart-stopping beauty that was and you believe in the miracle that will bring the loveliness to come and yet every time you look, and you see the teeth that are too big for the face and the acne, you have to wonder a little?

That’s what our weather is like right now. The rest of the northern hemisphere seems to have sprung into springdom in all its glory, but here, in the North Country of upstate New York, we’re at the awkward stage.

The snow is melting into huge ponds on front yards but then freezes into perfect ice rinks over night.

IMG_1389Dead leaves and flower stalks from last year are stuck in the ice and hint of life but it’s only the merest whisper of a hint.

IMG_1396 IMG_1383The sand left by road crews all winter is drifting and, on windy days, taking a walk feels like going through a sandblaster.

IMG_1373We have spots where bare ground is showing but also have lots of filthy snow and a lake that refuses to melt.

IMG_1387 IMG_1374Where there’s ice at night, there will be mud all day.

IMG_1395 IMG_1394But no one is really complaining. Transitions are awkward and sometimes unlovely, whether in children or seasons, but they are also exciting and full of promise.

And one morning, we’ll wake up and without noticing exactly when it happened, the ugly duckling will have become a swan.

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