My daughter Ashley is gone on a choir tour to California this week. She’ll be singing in cathedrals and going on rides at Disneyland and Six Flags. She’ll be hanging out with friends and wiggling her toes in the wet sand on the beach. I know Ashley will relish every moment – from the annoying “Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer” song the kids sing on the all-nighter bus ride - to the brilliant overtones she’ll hear resonating off the arches in the Crystal Cathedral.
Ashley lives in the moment and relishes the here and now better than anyone I know. Her smile is like a beam of light that welcomes everyone into her safe harbor. If you have Ashley for your friend you are one happy sailor anchored safely in her love.
Ashley knows how to suck the marrow out of life . . . literally. When she was a baby she used to crawl over to my bare feet whenever I was playing the piano. Then she would suck on my toes while they bobbed up and down on the pedal. Now she plays that same piano with so much grace and beauty if takes my breath away. When she was a little girl she loved her cloth doll so much she sucked the stuffing out of the top of her head. Now she tends her nieces and nephews with so much gusto she can suck the grouches right out of them. Like sudden bursts of sunshine, Ashley’s laughter pops all around you like soap bubbles.
Ashley’s trip to California this week is my primer course in living without her. She will be moving out in a few months to begin a new journey at BYU. She’s ready. I’m not. We have our children in our homes for such a short time. I want to share Ashley with the world, I really do - but for now I want to take this moment to really soak in the enormous treasure she is in my life.
It’s too quiet around here when Ashley is gone. No one can take her place. You’d think having your children leave should get easier and easier the more times you’ve done it. It doesn’t. It just gets harder and harder. This will be my eighth launching party and I’m getting worse and worse at watching my babies leave. I don’t know where her voyage will take her or how often it will bring her home. I do know she is ready for the grand adventure that lies before her. And so I let her go with joy and sadness because now it is her time to sail toward the horizon without me.
I envy her roommates. Ashley laughs as easily as breathing. She throws nutritious meals together in minutes. She invites you to relish the world with her by going for a walk, listening to a new piece of music by Brahms or sharing her latest piece of exotic fruit from the produce department at Reams.
Ashley's bedroom down at the end of the hall isn’t tidy. It doesn’t bother me. Her room is like a mosaic of her treasured life . . . a dried corsage from the Sweetheart’s dance, a piece of sheet music from the choir concert, old Christmas candy, a soft turquoise robe, journal, a picture of Jesus, worn backpack, biology textbook, piles of makeup and a pair of high healed shoes next to a pair of worn sneakers. Behind the door is a teddy bear she has had since she was a baby and some rumpled plaid flannel pajamas. Cleaning out a bedroom when a child is about to leave home comes much too soon. After we pack all her things and haul her to college this summer, I know I’ll walk by her clean room and wonder where she’s gone without me. I don’t think children realize how much their parents love them until they have children of their own. Ashley doesn’t know how much she will be missed. I do.