Last night, belatedly, I did something both practical and symbolic.
Many years ago, at some community function or other, I picked up some "Tot Finder" stickers: fluorescent orange, with a drawing of a firefighter carrying a toddler (a girl). These stickers go on interior doors and/or exterior windows, and are meant to alert firefighters that there may be a young child within.
Well, Daughter #1 is graduating college at the end of May, and Daughter #2 just finished high school two weeks early in order to join the Phantom Regiment Drum Corps as they begin spring training. My toddlers, my little girls, my tots, are long gone, and the two wonderful young women who have replaced them are fairly well prepared to rescue themselves when danger threatens. It had probably been a decade or more since I noticed those stickers: they became part of the scenery, part of the decor, along with that decade's worth of other stickers and drawings, taped or glued to the wood. But last night, I saw them and registered what I was seeing. Those stickers weren't just obsolete -- they posed a potential danger to any firefighter who might enter our home and take unnecessary risks to rescue the ghosts of my daughters' pasts.
So last night, while my younger daughter packed an enormous suitcase full of a summers' worth of tank tops and t-shirts and workout shorts and other necessities, I sat on the floor in the hallway and peeled off the stickers: first from my elder daughter's door, and then from my younger's. Sometime soon, I'll need to traipse around outside, through the edge of the woods, to peel the stickers off the windows as well.
My daughters have -- more or less, by some meaningful definitions -- grown up. I am a bit disoriented, and weepy, and also proud: proud of them, and proud of myself and my husband (and my extremely supportive parents) who have helped them reach their respective milestones.
I'm an agnostic, but there are feelings for which agnostics lack the proper words. Godspeed, my daughters. Godspeed.