Last May, a pair of dark-eyed juncos set up house in the hanging basket outside our kitchen window. We watched them gather materials to make the nest, including hairs from our white dog, Ez. We watched them commence incubation, and at one point I snuck a photo of four small eggs.
The day finally arrived when Mama and Papa Bird darted to and from the basket, bringing food to their tiny babies. Even in the shallow nest, we could barely see the tufts of their heads.
Every day they grew. By day six they were standing up to be fed, their necks stretched long to reach the food, their beaks open so wide you could see down their throats.
Then, on day nine, they just flew away. One dropped to the ground before hopping off to try its wings. The others flew short distances until they were safely in the bushes. I wondered if they’d all meet up somewhere under the blackberry bushes and cuddle up when night fell. None of them have returned to the nest.
So, our Libby graduated from high school in June. She’s our third, so we’ve done this before. But it wasn’t until this time around that I realized I don’t love when my kids graduate from high school. In fact, it occurs to me that I’ve been tricked.
Libby has received graduation cards. “Congratulations, graduate!” “You made it!” “Best wishes as you follow your own path.” Yes, she’s earned it.
But then people cheerfully say to us, “How does it feel to have another high school graduate? Only two kids to go … You’ll be done before you know it!”
All these kind words are offered as if we want our chicks to leave the nest. Why do we want them to leave? We like them. Just when we’ve trained them to clean up after themselves, have interesting conversations, and be awesome, we’re supposed to rejoice that they’re leaving?
You don’t have to remind me that it’s good for them. I know they need to have their own experiences, start their own lives, conquer their own little part of the world. If they chose to just stay home forever, we’d have to kick them out for their own good—that’s the final goal.
But it still feels like a mean trick. When Daughter #2—Cassidy—graduated, two hours after the ceremony we drove her to start summer term at her out-of-state college. That was four years ago, and she has only been home for visits since. We celebrate that she’s independent and thriving, but we miss her, too. That day-to-day closeness we had stopped abruptly, and it all started with high school graduation.
Libby wrote this poem a while back. Every time I come across it, I end up reading it twice.
I Am From
I am from rainy days cuddled on the couch reading
I am from listening to my mum’s stories and cracking up
I am from wearing out the VHS tape of Beauty and the Beast
I am from crouching in the corner motionless and soundless just so I could watch my sisters play
I am from saying bless you whenever someone sneezes
I am from moving wood assembly-line style during the summer
I am from unsuccessful vegetable gardens
I am from jobs on Saturdays and church on Sundays
I am from reading the book before watching the movie
I am from everyone singing different songs while playing Mexican Train
I am from a calendar filled with times carefully planned out but being late anyway
I am from library trips being frequent but never boring
I am from ABBA, the Go-Go’s, and Queen
I am from loudly calling into the woods for our bearlike dogs
I am from “What did you learn today?” at the dinner table
We are where our kids are from, and I’m as curious as anybody to see where they’re going. Mama and Papa Bird only got nine days. I’m thankful we have them for eighteen years.