My Baby Girl graduated from North Raleigh Christian Academy in June. She has spent her last two years of high school in “Amurica” where she has learned to play powder puff football, drive a car on the right side of the road, literally swing from the rafters as a giant spider in Tarzan, and distinguish herself in the subject of American literature. She has had a whale of a time dressing up for prom and going on the ultimate senior field trip to New York City. In many ways, she got to relive the crazy fun years I had in high school, including wearing a dress of mine from 1974 for Tacky Prom Dress Day during Spirit Week! (No–long, puffed sleeves and blue and yellow plaid with flowers was not tacky in my day but the height of fashion, I must add). However, she also worked unbelievably hard and achieved a great deal more than I ever did. I read everything from Milton to Dostoevsky just to keep up with her AP English class.
The one thing she didn’t “get”, though, was graduation. She missed picking up her gold honors cords, lost her cap in the toss-up, and failed to display her diploma like every other smiling grad in the after shots. So, in all the pictures I have of her, she stands there capless in an unadorned white gown looking like she’s about to be baptised. The rest of her classmates stand proudly capped and diploma bearing like they just graduated from high school. Somehow, I feel cheated of this long awaited moment while she flaps around like a big white stork eager to discard this last momentous garment of childhood. She is ready to fly, and all I want is a picture that will somehow let me hold onto this final parting. And this is it!
But, perhaps, this is the right picture after all. Baby Girl ready to doff the last of her childhood kit, pausing just to smile and hand her Mom a red rose to say thanks, I love you. There are new worlds to conquer and she can’t wait to get there. It’s Road Trip Time.
Road Trip! What a challenge that used to be! Buckle the kids into their car seats, pack half the house into the back of the car–carry-cot, nappy bag, toys, strollers, food, scooters, more food, more toys, port-a-potty, one suitcase because there’s no room for anything else–then, hurry up and get there before they wake up and want out!
No, Road Trips aren’t for babies. She’s still my Baby Girl, though. Now, we just toss a bag or two into the back of the car and head for someplace we’ve never been to before, the North Carolina Coast. Childhood fades further and further behind along with the miles. There’s so much of life to discuss. Her future stretches ahead along a bright horizon. I’m the passenger now, navigating from the map of the past while she charts her own course.
We head for the beach and the sound of the sea. Dolphins arc across the waves as if inviting us to join them. It’s the perfect antidote to post-graduation blues. We plunge into the waves ourselves, she the lithe young mermaid and me, the sideways-scooting crab. But in the sea, age and time are forgotten. There is only the crashing thunder of waves breaking all around us, the rising swell that propels our bodies forward, and the tease of the tide that pulls us back again. The Atlantic here is surprisingly warm, and the beach is wide and welcoming. It’s summertime and we are all young again, making footprints in the sand that will quickly be erased from time and memory. The tide of nearly sixty years washes over me as I try to swim against it. Who am I kidding? I can’t turn back the tide of time. This road trip leaves an inevitable ache of what was and can never be again. My Baby Girl will soon seek other travelling companions. I cannot hold on and live through her anymore than I can hold back the tide. Road Trips are all about arriving, but they’re also about leaving. There will be many more, if I am blessed. I am still up for the ride. The Road continually beckons, and I am an eager traveller.