August Transition

This one is for my sister as she leaves her beautiful daughter at Tulane Univeresity, far, far from home.

Krysti, I remember well how hard it was for me to leave you to go to college. And I still sting with the pain of learning how angry you were with me for abandoning you. And, oh, how I remember the raw grief of a child leaving the home and the heart into which I invested so much. I pray you south and I pray you home again, the seat beside you painfully empty. And I pray the autumn, though certainly tinged with browns, will be richly hued with the joys of a new season.


August. It hangs in the air, doesn’t it? A long month — hot, heavy, humid. Summer is well-established, but the threat of fall lurks in the shortening evening shadows. For right now, it’s still summertime. We hang on to these last golden days of closely knit family time. Still, with every day, the change of autumn grows ever closer.

Perhaps this is the fall when your baby first gets on a bus to go to kindergarten. Maybe you are shopping for the perfect outfit to wear for the first day of middle school. (Is there such a thing as a perfect anything in middle school?) Is it the adventure of high school that is this year’s first? Or, are you swallowing hard against the lump that keeps rising as you gather all the necessities for a college dorm?

Much more than January, it is September that is most likely to bring change to the composition and the rhythm of a family. August is replete with drawing every last little bit out of the family as it is this summer, before running headlong into the family as it will be this fall. August is for counting blessings, taking stock and looking forward. August is all about laboring toward transition.

There is a moment or two (though for some it seems more like an eternity) just before a baby is born that is intense and painful. For many women, it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever done. Very often, in the moment, a laboring mother will tell you that she can’t possibly do this task before her. A good midwife will remind the mother at that point that she is very close, indeed, to holding her baby. And so she is. The stage is called “transition” and it is marked most often by intensity and pain. It is followed by the sweetest joy a woman can know. And the pain? Remarkably, it disappears.

What the new mother doesn’t know is that “transition” will repeat itself throughout her baby’s childhood. There will be intensity and pain and then she will most definitely push her dear child into another world. What she doesn’t know is that, unlike that first transition, the ones that follow don’t end with a baby safely snuggled at her breast. With every subsequent transition in their life together, that baby will move further from her. That’s what is meant to be.

His world will expand to include new people, new places, new relationships. She wants those things for him. She wants him to reach and to grow, to learn and to love. Still, it hurts. And in the quiet of an August night, she acknowledges in a whispered prayer that she wishes it didn’t have to be. She wishes they could just breathe together in the warm quiet after the hard work of birth. She wishes she could hold his hand as he walks on tentative, toddling feet, both of them secure in her ability to keep him from falling. She wishes to soak up the pure delight of his being just a little longer. She has loved all the springs and all the summers with a joyful gratitude.

It’s August though, and nearly September. With a sigh and a prayer destined to be oft-repeated, she turns resolutely toward the autumn sun.

--reviving this one from the archives at the Catholic Herald today (they've reformatted the site there:-) as we work at home. I hope this message finds you well as I endeavor to take a little computer break and focus intentaly on home. It's Boot Camp week before our autumn rhythm moves into full swing. I'm posting this as a genuine reminder to myself.  We're working hard to prepare the environment for our studies and to establish excellent habits so that each member of this family can serve the others well in the coming term.