Thursday, September 27, 2012


I have used the term "bittersweet" often in the past four years to describe how I feel about this stage of motherhood. I cannot think of a better word to express the mingling feelings of  bitter sadness and pain that come with separation from my children, and the sweet joy and thankfulness that come with knowing that they are maturing into adult children, following God's calling on their lives as He so lovingly provides for them.

The days between August 14 and 29 were bittersweet and intense mothering days for me: first, there was Tayta's surgery, and one week post-op, we were taking our third child, Artist Son, to college. Though it hasn't been easy, Dear Husband and I have made the effort to take each of our children to college. For each child this transition has meant moving  to a "foreign" country and being left in a new place after which Dear Husband and I, and any remaining siblings have returned to Jordan many miles away.

Dear Husband deftly handled the transition of both of our sons to college: He helped Active Son move into his dorm room at Boise State, while assisting Artist Son as he packed for college and passed his driving test. Arriving two days before me, Dear husband and Artist Son picked me up at Logan airport in Boston; I was coming from Chicago, where I had left Tayta, one week post-op, with Oldest Daughter.
 Artist Son in at the harbor in Gloucester

This was my first trip to New England, and although it was brief and limited to Gordon College and the surrounding area, I enjoyed taking in its distinctions from western United States geography and culture:

Dear Husband, good as he is with direction, was wise to pay for the GPS feature on our rental car as the roads followed a windy, haphazard, old-wagon-trail path. And, as a local informed us, "It seems we don't like road signs".

We could drive for five minutes and be in the next town. There were so many small towns clustered together, we often didn't know what town we were in or passing through.

Where is Starbucks? All we could find was Dunkin' Doughnuts after Dunkin' Doughnuts. Old Boston made up for the lack: there was a Starbucks on every block.

If you eat out, of course, order the seafood. In Gloucester the locals prefer The Causeway. We waited an hour and a half for a table, the waiting area being the parking lot where we enjoyed colorful conversation with some locals.

Artist Son's dorm, Drew Hall: Its situation makes up for its modesty.

Artist Son and his roommates, both Massachusetts residents

Artist Son's side of the "forced triple."  The bottom bunk is Artist Son's for now but there is talk of rotation. A high ceiling and the sky light help to open up the otherwise close living quarters.

Artist Son's corner, with his roommate's fridge

The library, located to the immediate left of Artist Son's dorm

This old stone building, nestled among trees, is the most most beautiful building on campus. The Academic Dean, who we were privileged to meet since we share a mutual friend, has his office here, as does (I think) the provost and the president.

Here is the beginning of the running/walking trail which can be picked up behind Artist Son's dorm.

There is plenty of beauty to behold, just a few steps from campus.

The trail goes past a swimming hole...

...and a large pond. The music building is in the backround.

We made sure to take this picture a couple hours before we left Artist Son at Gordon--before my tears started.

At the Signing ceremony, a New England college tradition, Artist Son signed his name, indicating that was joining a community of scholars.

After the ceremony, we said our good-byes, and that is when those bittersweet tears flowed. They were expected and so, not resented. How grateful we were to be leaving Artist Son to begin his academic journey away from home in such a fine place and amidst such caring faculty and staff. And oh, how we would miss him! We were thankful, too, that God allowed us to accompany Artist Son this far on his journey, and to spend even a short amount of time with him at the place where he will spend his next four years.

Leaving Boston, I flew back to Chicago to an unexpected mothering blessings: moving Oldest Daughter into her first apartment.

Back story: One of the things I have worried about. living so far from our college-age children as we do, is not being available to them at important junctures in their adult lives.When I first learned that Oldest Daughter would be moving to Chicago during the summer in preparation for starting graduate studies in the fall, I longed to make a trip from Boise to Chicago so that I could help her. She had no car, no furniture, little money, and no place to land, as her apartment wouldn't be available when she arrived. But with the restrictions of finances, not to mention Tayta's surgery, Artist Son's departure for college, and our impending return to Jordan, I saw no way.

First, God provided a furnished condo, via a Boise friend, for Oldest Daughter (and Tayta, and then me) to stay in while she waited to move into her apartment, and it was located just a couple miles from her new apartment. When I returned to Chicago for a one night stay before heading back to Madison for Tayta's second post-op appointment, Oldest Daughter informed me that she was packed up and ready to move. We took two rental-car loads over that night, and completed the job in two car loads the next day--we even managed to move her mattress, so she had, at least, a place to sleep. Wait. I was there! God had allowed me to help Oldest Daughter move into her first apartment! 

The moving crew
(we let Tayta carry only the light things)

The living room: I think there may be a couple pieces of furniture in there by now.

By the time Tayta and I got on the road to Madison, mingled with my joy and thankfulness was a strong desire for home and rest. I thought of Odysseus, straining for home. At that point, even the Madison Ronald McDonald House, to which we were headed, held out a vision of home and stability to me. That is when I knew I needed real stability and rest, a firm foundation. Tatya and I took some time to recount God's blessing in our lives and his perfect provision for our family during these two weeks. How thankful I was that God had given me the strength and the means to be with my children during these important times in their lives.

As long as I am a mother I suppose my feelings about my children will always be tinged with bittersweetness, but as each of them moves a bit farther from the nest, the sweetness begins to overwhelm the bitterness, or at least mingles with it in such a way as to bring delight--most of the time. Such is a mother's life.


Laura A said...

Ah, it is bittersweet, isn't it? Particularly when, in order to go to college, your kids have to move to a different country. Yet it's part of God's plan for them, and for you.

I'm glad you husband doesn't begrudge you a few tears, at least ;-). And I'm glad you got to "be there" for them, spread thinly as you were.

Jodi said...

From my mama heart to yours, Hugs and God bless.

Woman of the House said...

Don't forget that I am only an hour and half south of Chicago. We would be happy to help your daughter if we can, or if she needs a respite she is welcome here. I really mean that!

Did you make Artist Son's quilt? I love it! And the coordinating sheets~ perfect! Is he a bed-maker or was that your doing? lol

Quotidian Life said...

Thank you all for the empathy--an increasingly important role for friends as we parent adult children.

Martha, I didn't realize you were so close to Chicago. I'll keep that in mind and let L. know as well. Yes, I did make A.'s quilt--my third one, now : ) I'll try to blog it next week.

Cindy Marsch said...

I loved this post, especially recognizing mentions of the Boston area. I'm so thankful that your world-traveling family could be together for so many special, important moments this summer! Praise God for all that!

General question for the universe: why do colleges have those awful desk chairs that tip back into semi-rockers? Union U., Gordon, and Point Loma Nazarene U. all have them, and I haven't been in other dorms lately . . .

Quotidian Life said...

Cindy, A.'s chair was the best one in his dorm room! His roommate took his and traded for another someplace else on campus. And coming up: some pics of J's dorm room at Boise State; he has the exact same chair, blue upholstery and all! They must have made tens of thousands :)

Heather said...

Reading this with tears in my eyes for both you and someday, me.
Thank you for showing the godly example of a mother.