“She’s just 17 if you know what I mean…” The Beatles, the epitome of youth, their song capturing for all time the loveliness of being a woman and being 17.
My daughter is 17 and she is all that and more, a girl, a woman, about to emerge into the world with her opinions, her joys and her strength of character. She is someone I am proud to know: not only as a mother but as another woman.
I wished for her from the moment she was born everything that is good and just and honorable. I wished for her happiness and success. She has managed to fulfill these wishes and from the time she entered high school, one of her biggest hopes and wishes was to go on the Europe trip. I encouraged this dream, this wish, from the start. What mother wouldn’t, right? Then the day finally arrived — Megan was in grade 11. The grade 11 trips are a time honored ritual. In October we signed up parent and child for the Europe Trip. We had a meeting and were given contracts to sign about behavior and no alcohol. We were given an itinerary of where the young adults would be going and of course we were given the bill.
As the year progressed it was my job to make sure the cheques went through and of course making sure all the other “stuff” was organized as well. Small things like a “passport.” Every time something was accomplished on the “to do list” for Europe I would check it off.
Eventually the “to do list” was done. I had to realize that Megan was going away for the first time, for more than a week, and she wouldn’t be with her Aunt and Uncle. She would be with people I didn’t know in countries that were foreign to me. It kind of sat funny in my lap, that little tid bit, that my daughter was going to be quite literally on her own far, far from home.
It was spring and there was a sense of everything about to blossom and burst to life. That sense of spring was now seen on the face of my baby — my baby to me, a 17 year old to the world. We were waiting, my husband and I, to take her to the airport. It had been a long time coming but now it’s a reality. There was an excitement and nervousness that Megan expressed. From me there are last minute instructions about how to be vigilant on this trip. I repeated myself like a broken record over and over again. “Remember keep that money belt hidden,” I said to her. And of course being 17 my daughter thought I was completely over the top. I may have been, but Megan was flying off to Rome and I wouldn’t see her again for another 11 days. That is a lifetime for a mom whose child has never gone as far as Toronto and then is with family, and has access to a phone. The flight to Rome is 8 or 9 hours that my husband and I tracked from start to finish on some web site called Flight Tracker. I felt like an interloper, a crazed stalker of sorts.
When I woke up in the morning I saw on the computer that the plane has landed. Phew, that’s good. So I knew in my head the plane had not been taken over by hijackers, or blown up in mid air, or crashed into the ocean. Another crisis averted in mom and dad’s world. Now what?
We had no communication with our daughter. After hearing horror stories about the cell phone bills some parents received from the trip the year before, we felt we could go 12 days without contact. So we went about our daily routines and wondered aloud what Megan was up to today. I had her itinerary and so I followed along with her on the trip via Facebook. I would Google pictures of the cities she was in so I could feel as though I was there with her on this incredible journey. It helped, it made me feel a little closer to her and I have to say I was quite awe struck at where she was traveling.
She landed in Rome in the morning and right from the start the tour took in The Vatican, The Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s Cathedral and the Coliseum. From there it was off to Florence and Venice. She then traveled on and saw Innsbruck and Munich, Zurich and finally Paris and London. A whirlwind tour of Europe, visiting most, if not all, of the sights in each of the cities, Megan experienced what European life was like.
Her parents meanwhile back at home managed to get by without their little girl at home. I missed her at suppertime, when she and I would sit down to dinner and discuss our day together. Since my husband worked nights and my son also worked, supper for Megan and I was a time when we could chat and catch up on what’s going on with each other. I missed that a lot.
It’s not easy when a child leaves the confines of home. People will say to you “don’t worry, she’s fine.” Sure, I know that in my head and thank you very much but I am a mother and I worry, I’m allowed. That’s what you get for having a child, wrinkles and worry lines. So what, let me worry. It’s a privilege to do so, to worry about your kids. God, it’s so often you hear such horrific stories about parents and neglect and abuse. You would think a little worrying wouldn’t get under anyone’s skin, but apparently you shouldn’t worry when your child is miles and oceans away. Well, I don’t like to listen to what other people say so I worried anyway and it made me feel better. I know my daughter, I know her very well, and in my mind I knew she was fine and having the time of her life. She absorbs everything and loves to learn and is fascinated by art and by people and by experiences. So this trip would engulf all of those amazing things for her. She is also funny and fun to be with and was with lots of friends so I knew she wasn’t lonely or homesick. But I was homesick for her. Our home lacked something when she was gone. It lacked a laugh, a smile, a pleasant hello coming home from work, a joke. It just didn’t feel right without her here.
I know she will be gone in a blink of an eye. Graduation from high school will be the last bastion of teen angst for my daughter I am sure. She is, I tell her sometimes, more mature than most people I know. So it won’t be long when she tells us she is moving out, or moving away or going away on a trip somewhere or doing some work overseas. She just has that zest, that spunk, that drives people forward. So she should, and I hope she takes full advantage of her outlook on life and runs with it to wherever her heart desires.
Twelve days went by slowly but finally the day arrived when Megan would be coming home from Europe. My husband couldn’t sleep that day; he was so excited to see her. Both of us arrived two hours before the plane arrived, anxious to see Megan come through the gate. When she did I was almost stunned that it was actually her and Megan grabbed me and hugged me so tight and I hugged her so tight I thought my ribs would crack. And everything felt right, and then she grabbed her Dad and hugged him! Phew, she made it. Now what?
Well, as I said earlier it’s graduation, that’s what’s next. Her Convocation, then the Prom, and then preparing for CEGEP. Now what? Why do I keep saying that? With children there is always something. What would life be like without the trials and tribulations of children? Without their curiosity, and rebellious behavior? Where would we be as parents without the worry and the heartache and the absolute joy? My daughter’s wish came true, she went; she saw, she conquered and I like to think I conquered something too. I conquered the loss of my baby girl for 12 days. I survived and now feel as though the next step she takes won’t hurt so much. Now I know that this young woman who is only 17 has the panache and the smarts to manage her way through Europe can surely manage anything in the future. And I will yell from the rooftop “you go girl cause 17 doesn’t last forever.”
Thumbnail – Michelangelo’s statue of David – The Microsoft Office Clip Art Collection
Vatikan & Colosseum Panoramic Views – Wikipedia Creative Commons