Our daughter, Eliza, turned 21 yesterday. We felt lucky to be with her in New York City to celebrate. I experienced that melange of mother emotions that accompanies so many of life's milestones. The need for that oh-so-delicate balance between holding tightly and letting go completely was palpable as we said good-by and watched her walk back into her own life. That very struggle was there for me on the day sixteen years ago when I put Eliza (and her older sister, Molly, five years before that) on the kindergarten school bus. The same emotion swelled like a tsunami when we dropped Molly off at college in New York City, and then watched Eliza follow in her footsteps. Tears and silence were my immediate means of communication.
In the years since, I've cried after airport drop-offs watching them go for semesters abroad to Ghana and Paris, wondering if they'd be safe and happy...and they were. I was thrilled that Molly got engaged in Italy this summer and that she's enjoyed her move to Knoxville with her fiancé, which gave way to a new job she loves. When the physical distance goes from 90 minutes to a 15-hour car ride, you know it's a milestone. And I'm already holding my breath for a day in September of next year, when our older daughter will stretch that invisible chord even further when she comes home to speak her wedding vows by the ocean I look at every day.
Each of these milestones in life holds skyrocketing emotions of joy and pride, and are often wrapped around feelings of fear and sadness deep down inside, because it's hard when life changes dramatically. It's all about letting go. Allowing children to be inspired and try new things. Giving yourself permission to sink into the feeling that you've done a good job raising human beings who are contributing to a better world, but wishing they were little again for just one minute.
There have been other life markers...my mother and father passing away. My older sister's much-too-early and unexpected leaving of this Earth. These are our most human times and they deserve recognition and celebration. It's important to celebrate even the most painful moments and help one another through them.
That's why I believe I created The Infinity Angel...or, I should say, why she found me on Ogunquit Beach more than a decade ago. She is a reminder that everything you need is already here, that everything will be alright. She is often a physical memento of, as my mom always said, "This too shall pass." Because everything does change, pass, move along. The only constant is impermanence. I get it, but I need gentle reminders. Each milestone teaches me that lesson again in a new way.
We have learned that The Infinity Angel is embraced as an appropriate marker for life's milestones, a way to share the emotion of one of these transitions when words alone can't express your feelings. When I hear the stories about who gives and receives a Touchstone or a Nugget, when I am told anecdotes about the people who hold The Infinity Angel in their hands or pockets or purses, I am grateful to be part of their emotional communication. I share each of their milestones in a very tiny way and I feel richer for it.
I have several friends who are about to deliver their children to college for the first time this week. I hear their stories and remember the emotional roller coaster so well. Whether it is The Infinity Angel or another talisman they tuck into a suitcase to be discovered later or hand to their loved one as the tears begin to fall, it's important to find a way to communicate the emotions that no words will ever express.
Thank you for allowing us to be part of some of your most poignant times.