Our oldest daughter is a packrat. She always has been. When she was little she would line up her used paper drinking cups and chewing gum on her windowsill. The very thought of throwing anything away was extremely traumatic for her. Fortunately she has mellowed out a bit over the years and become more reasonable about what she must keep. Good thing, too, because later this summer she will become a married woman. And the thought of packing up boxes of used bits of chewing gum and moldy Dixie cups would’ve been painful for all of us, her fiancé included.
As we began the process of cleaning out her bedroom, it wasn’t without teary reminders of her childhood. Camp tee shirts, blue ribbons won in basketball and ragged teddy bears were among our findings. I’ll admit I got a bit choked up seeing those things leave her room headed for the moving boxes. Each time I packed something, I was letting go of what used to be. I felt a bit like George Banks in my favorite movie, Father of the Bride. It is hard to let your little girl grow up.
As emotional as the process has been, I’m experiencing something quite unexpected. Relief. Each box I pack for her represents achievement for us as her parents. Being a parent is hard work. Late nights, tearful prayers and a small fortune later, our first-born has turned into the confident, beautiful, God-fearing young woman we anticipated all along. That is not to say I won’t sob my eyes out when she walks down the aisle in August, but it will be mixed emotion. I’ll be letting go of what was, finding satisfaction in a job well done and embracing what is ahead for all of us.
Wandering through the rooms and halls of my home now, I see stacks of boxes ready to leave our nest. Soon couches and chairs and beds will be packed up and our house will become less and less crowded! I almost feel guilty for saying this, but while I dread the thought of seeing my daughter leave, the STUFF is another matter. It seems like my husband and I spent the first two decades of our family accumulating things as fast as we could and now I jump with glee at the thought of getting rid of it all!
While we have two more kids at home, the youngest being just eight, I have many more years of living with children’s stuff. Yet, our second daughter will leave for college next year and times will change again. In my quest to live authentically, I am reevaluating what we really need for this next phase of life. We have a 4,300 square foot house full of things. Do we need that much stuff? Do we need this much space? We have cars to maintain, furniture to dust, rugs to vacuum and of course, a never-ending list of remodeling projects to get to. Somehow the feelings of excitement I used to experience over those things has faded into fantasizing about throwing it all into the garbage can and moving to a deserted island with only a backpack and my sunscreen. Ah, the freedom!
Life marches on, circumstances change and priorities adjust. Letting go of the past is an emotional process, but there is a freedom in living authentically in the present. Evaluating what we really need, and what we can do without, frees us to clear away the clutter of life. Clinging to the past keeps us from embracing all that God wants us to experience in the here and now. God has big plans for us and I am ready to step forward with anticipation of our next season in life. I wish I could tuck my little girl under my wing once again, but it is time to let her fly. And by watching her fly out of the nest, I feel a new sense of freedom. I can look forward to our next assignment in life. And two more little birds learning to spread their wings.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1
©2008, Melissa Michaels