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LILY AND ZOE

EVERYONE KNOWS their kids will leave home. You know it when they're born:They're not yours forever. When my children were handed to me in the hospital, I recall a surge of love and joy. Dread didn't arrive until the shadowy hours. What could happen to him or her? Would I be a good mother? Would we be good parents? Would they be healthy? What problems would we face? Birth brought ecstasy underlaid with foreboding.

We know that the exquisite, fulfilling dance of parent and child will end. At best, your children will grow up to be productive adults. They'll leave home, lead great lives, mail you photos of the grandkids, and show up on major holidays. If you're lucky.

If you're not lucky, your children may die young, leaving you to mourn their passage. Or they may turn into outlaws, making you wonder what you did wrong. (Alternatively, you may live in unexamined self righteousness, wondering how life could give you such rotten kids.)

Being a parent is a complicated tango.

During the years of Girl Scouts and class parties, of science fairs and academic emergencies, my dread stayed underground. It was like water flowing beneath an icebound river. Some day, it would awaken and arise. Some day, the kids would leave. But not now.


DREAD, FLOWING DEEPLY

As they grew to look like women instead of little girls, I felt protected by the school system; they couldn't leave until finishing twelfth grade. The inevitable was years away. As my older daughter headed into her senior year of high school, I knew we still had another year together. She hated high school, of course; every day was torture for her, but she was trapped.

"She's like an adult walking around with a brunch of high school kids," one of her teachers said. That was it; Zoe didn't belong in high school. She was too mature, mentally and emotionally. Telling her that I never felt at home until I went to graduate school didn't help: She was seventeen and graduate school was many years away.

It didn't bother me much: Zoe would have another miserable year, but she'd be with me.

Sometime in June, before what was to be her senior year, we heard about Simon's Rock College, a small, liberal arts college in eastern Massachusetts. Simon's Rock was the only college in the country whose student body was exclusively kids who'd moved on to college before they graduated from high school. Most students arrived at Simon's Rock after their sophomore year of high school, simply skipping the last two years. The College was a very highly ranked school for very bright students. Hearing about it, Zoe lit up like a fireworks display. Freedom was at hand!

She jumped into the application process, writing essays and mailing transcripts.


THE COACH HOUSE
One of the dorms at Simon's Rock College

In a few weeks, I found myself on a jet, heading East with my daughter. I didn't have another year with her: I had a few days. Then, only hours.

Dread began surfacing on the plane. I didn't feel it and couldn't name it. I felt agitated and supercharged. When I saw her dorm, anticipation turned to hyperactivity. I couldn't leave her in that room. It wasn't any worse than dorm rooms I've lived in, but I couldn't leave her in that little hole. Not until it was cozy.

Launching ourselves into a foreign landscape, we drove an unknown distance and found a discount mall. I was so nervous that I was semi-hysterical. I had no clue: Denial is a powerful and very useful defense mechanism. We bought the most elegant bed set in that part of the state: pillows, shams, the works. Several lamps. A couple of rugs. Fancy towels that would bleed red dye until Easter and ruin everything washed with them, in addition to rubbing off on Zoe.

The plane was taking off, but I couldn't leave until I made her bed. I put on the dust ruffle and fluffed the shams, then carefully laid out the throw rug and tried the lamps. I stood in the doorway and looked over the room: It would do. My child had a nest. We hugged good-bye.


THE CHAPEL AT SIMON'S ROCK

I didn't lose it at the school. I broke down in front of the Massachusetts equivalent of Wal-Mart, and kept it up all the way home.

She called all the time; every day, at first. But I knew event those contacts were ephemeral: We'd walked through a doorway. We'd never be together in the same way.

Well, Zoe was gone, but I still had The Little One. Lily, my baby. We grew so close those years before it was time for her to go. She had to leave, we all knew. She'd taken all the courses available locally. She had to go.

Dread was not so nice this time. Again, I became super charged. Zoe was back, having graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in New York. She loved every minute of Simon's Rock and cruised on to and through Sarah Lawrence. Now she was back, and the sisters planned on sharing an apartment.

Unfortunately, the Santa Barbara housing market was the most expensive in the country and one of the tightest. People lined up on the sidewalks in hopes of snagging some little hovel. How would they find a place?

I vaulted into the process. They needed a safe, decent, affordable place to live. I would find it. I find things: I found Zoe when she got lost in the woods as a two year old and the Sheriff was calling out the dogs. I would find them a place to live in one of the toughest housing markets in the world.

And I did. It's monthly rent was more than our ranch's mortgage, it was tiny, but it was theirs.


BETTER TO BE AN OWNER THAN A RENTER
This tiny place cost a bundle. Wish I owned it.

As my husband loaded the last of our leftover furniture––orphaned chairs and slightly gnawed-by-the-last-puppy tables––into our horse trailer to set up their place, something inside me groaned. This was it. The chicks were gone. They'd come back to visit, but not to stay.

I was alone.

Well, okay, I had a perfectly good, healthy husband that I loved and who loved me. We had a bunch of horses. Two big ranch dogs. That was fine. But my kids . . .

I moped around, barely functioning. I felt drugged by loss, pulled down by silence and empty places at the table. I was lost. I couldn't fight it. One day, I walked around the corner of the house feeling such paint that I leaned against the stucco and sobbed. Was this a heart attack? Was I dying? What could I do?

Barry didn't get it. The girls were forty minutes away. They called all the time. So what?

It wasn't until he told a contractor friend––another man's man like himself––that the girls had left, that he began to understand.

"How's Sandy?" the friend asked, truly concerned. "Oh, boy, did my mom have a time . . ." And he proceeded to enlighten Barry about women and their kids leaving. "Then there was Mrs. . . . Boy, was she a mess. You know, some women never get over it."

At least he'd heard what our friend said. You'd think that would get Barry would have been ready for what happened next, but he wasn't. To find out what it was click on:

FALLING IN LOVE FOR THE FIRST TIME

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STEPPING OFF THE EDGE: LEARNING & LIVING SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

 

A MODERN SPIRITUAL COMPANION

 

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NUMENON
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ALE OF MYSTICIAM & MONEY MENON

 

"BILL GATES MEETS DON JUAN."

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TECOLOTE: THE LITTLE HORSE THAT COULD

BORN PREMATURELY ON A FREEZING NIGHT, THE COLT HAD TO FIGHT FOR HIS LIFE.

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THE ANGEL & THE BROWN-EYED BOY

 

A FUTURE WORLD ONLY HEARTBEATS FROM OUR OWN

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AUTHOR SANDY NATHAN IS THE WINNER OF SEVENTEEN NATIONAL AWARDS!
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SANDY NATHAN
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