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My Tara and me, September 2014

My Tara and me, September 2014

Not my adulthood, of course. Tara turned 18 years old on Sunday. My baby is a legal adult now, and – just like 18-year-olds everywhere – remains part child even though they are now part adult.

It’s a really exciting time for us both. Tara has more fear about it than me. With all my adult years of experience, I can see that Tara is ready to take on the world. My child is not so sure I’m right about that, but I have confidence based in years of watching Tara meet challenges and come out victorious.

The new status doesn’t make me feel old, but does make me nostalgic. I still can’t believe that hollering, impatient, needy infant is already packing bags to leave home. Wow, how did that happen so fast? And only a month ago (wasn’t it only a month?) my index finger was being squeezed by a tiny, damp, chubby hand of someone very small learning to walk. Last week my heart thumped every time that little person ran on unsteady feet, and then the next day…off they went on their bike.

I taught Tara how to cross the street without me. How to watch the lights, and the traffic, and to think of how heavy and dangerous a car can be. And I stood on the sidewalk and held my breath till they arrived safely on the other side. Then with the glee of freedom without the weight of responsibility, Tara watched the lights and the cars, and when it was safe, came hurtling back to me. And I didn’t tell their dad for a long time, about what I had done.

And then we practiced taking the bus to ballet lessons. The #15 went right from our house to the studio. I rode with Tara the first time, telling them what to look for, what to listen for. We rode together a second time, and I waited for my child to give me instructions. We missed the stop. It was ok. And after that, Tara made the busses, the streetcars, the lightrail their own territory, and off they went again. Off to ballet, off to school, off to the mall and to a friend’s house on the other side of the city. Gone far away to return to me much later, always to the relief of my pounding heart. Always putting away the nightmares of the headlines that could read, “Reckless mother teaches child to be independent in the heart of the city.”

I took notes in the Tokyo Narita airport when I went through, and then emailed them to Tara a couple months later, so Tara could make the same trip, alone, to come visit me while I lived in Japan. “Keep your passport on you, and handy, and never never set it down. There are signs in English when you get off the plane. After you pick up your luggage, you’ll have to go through customs, and hand them your forms. Then find the terminal for domestic flights. If you don’t know where to go, follow the other people. If you get scared, ask for help.” I actually cried with relief when my 15-year-old walked into the tiny Hiroshima terminal from the plane.

And look what I’ve done to myself: ensured that this beautiful, strong, smart, brave, amazing used-to-be-child is ready to leave again. We were talking about last week’s college orientation the other night, and about Tara’s move to Corvallis when school starts. Tara says, not in an angry way at all, but matter-of-factly, “I’m sure you’re as sick of living with me as I am sick of living with you.” And you have to understand our relationship to know that it wasn’t a hurtful comment in it’s delivery or receipt: we are two very strong and independent people who respect each other enough to be honest.

Much as I am sad about the separation that will happen this Fall when it’s time to go to University, I see that I have done my job properly.

Tara checking out their Oregon State University dormitory room during orientation last week.

Tara checking out their Oregon State University dormitory room during orientation last week.

There used to be a

There used to be a “No Hunting or Trespassing” sign on a tree by the lake. Tara has it in hand, after replacing it with a different sign.

Yes, this sign suits us much better.

Yes, this sign suits us much better.

Plane banks as we head toward the Boston bay. Crepuscular rays light up the shoreline like an invitation.

Plane banks as we head toward the Boston bay. Crepuscular rays light up the shoreline like an invitation.

This kind of scene would warm a teacher's heart.

This scene would warm a teacher’s heart.

I graduated from Brandeis University in 2007. I attended in my thirties, and clearly stood out from most of my classmates because of it. Despite the differences, I made some pretty tight friendships with other students, and the people whose lives intersected with mine. Interestingly (or perhaps predictably) the people I connected with were others who stood out from the crowd. They’ve been begging Tara and me for visits since my last trip to Massachusetts in 2008.

Finally! We made it back for one whirlwind friendship weekend.

R picked us up from the airport and took us to the UMass Boston campus to get our friend M.

Looking across the bay from University of Massachusetts Boston, while we waited for Mads to get off work.

Looking across the bay from University of Massachusetts Boston, while we waited for M to get off work.

New England homes and foliage across the bay.

New England homes and foliage across the bay.

Snapping photos from the back seat as we leave the airport.

Snapping photos from the back seat as we leave the airport.

This city looks beautiful even when photographed from a moving vehicle.

This city looks beautiful even when photographed from a moving vehicle.

Illuminated white tower at sunset and brilliant foliage reflected in the water. Some scenes are inescapably New England.

Illuminated white tower at sunset and brilliant foliage reflected in the water. Some scenes are inescapably New England.

Since the three of us were Brandeis graduates, and since there were a couple of hours left in Thursday, we hit the campus next. Tara is a senior and we are all about colleges these days. Applications, scholarships, and of course: pleading Mom for visits to campuses. Though T is not interested in East Coast schools, I assumed it couldn’t hurt to explore a few of them. We hit the bookstore before they closed and updated our Brandeis gear. I’m sure after everything we spent, the school was very glad they were still open that night.

Tara, R, and me in the Brandeis Admissions parking lot

Tara, R, and me in the Brandeis Admissions parking lot

The school's namesake: Justice Louis Brandeis

The school’s namesake: Justice Louis Brandeis on our photogenic campus.

We walked around, pointing out different things we all remembered. Tara, too, had childhood memories of it, like watching movies at the library while I was in class. What a trip down memory lane. To my delight, we caught the Brandeis Quidditch team at practice. You know, from the Harry Potter books? Well apparently it’s caught on in our world as well. The sticks between their legs are the brooms. Because of the angle, you can’t see it, but the “posts” on the end are three hoops at different heights through which the team is trying to lob the quaffle.

We walked through a great display in front of the Rose Art Museum from artist Chris Burden, called Light Of Reason. The work’s title borrows a quote by the university’s namesake, Supreme Court Justice Louis Dembitz Brandeis: “If we would guide by the light of reason, we must let our minds be bold.”

Light of Reason

Light of Reason

The lampposts are recycled antiques.

The lampposts are recycled antiques.

Best of all was when we decided to walk inside and down the stairs of the Mandel Center, the place where it all began. Where eight years ago I wandered into a classroom for International Peace and Conflict studies, and I think I was the only student who claimed to be from the United States. To you, it will look like a classroom that is remarkable only in its total lack of interesting qualities. M, R, and I stepped through the door and were hit with memories like an almost physical force. We sat in our old seats and remembered who sat where, and what countries they were from. We talked about our professors, our assignments, and how M’s final project regarding Sri Lankan conflict for Professor Johnson’s class is now cited in publications around the globe. We mentioned how small the classroom was in comparison to our memories of it (why do places always seem smaller when you go back?).

How did we all fit into this small space?

How did we all fit into this small space?

Reliving the old days.

Reliving the old days.

Finally we went for dinner and the guys became fans of my Tara. All that kid has to do is loosen up and start talking, and the fan base grows. I am so proud to be the parent of this awesome human being. We said goodbye to R, then M slept on the floor and gave us his bed. There is something pretty great about being spoiled by a friend. Maybe it’s the knowledge that one day I’ll get a chance to pay it back.

M and R at dinner. I love them so very much.

M and R at dinner. I love them so very much.

 

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