Being located near the bathroom sink as it is, this is a picture that I glance at several times per day. It's barely recognizable as Rachael now, but I still love it.
And it's making me miss her so much right now.
Yesterday, I drove her to church camp - about 45 minutes from home - signed her in, took her to her cabin, put her sheets on the top bunk that she chose. Stayed for a few minutes to chat with the two counselors and seventeen other girls that would be her roommates for the weekend. Hugged her and kissed her and beat a hasty retreat before my being upset could manifest into her being upset.
It's not a long camp, as camps go...Thursday evening until Sunday afternoon. Two full days, and scraps of two more. Three sleeps. But it's not even lunchtime on Friday, and it's already feeling like forever.
She's never been away from home for such a long stretch before. Overnight, sure, and I wouldn't be missing her so much if she was just a friend's house and I'd be picking her up later. But knowing that I won't see her for two more days is just hard.
More than that, I don't know what she's doing. I realize that this is purely my own problem, and that she's quite likely having the time of her life and barely thinking about home at all. But when you consider that I haven't worked since she was born, that I've homeschooled her from the very beginning, you'll see that I just haven't been away from her much. I've always known just where she was, what she was doing and when, and most importantly, that she was okay - physically and emotionally. But now, she's miles away and I can't even call her... Sure, they'd call me if she was hurt or sick, so I can assume physical rightness. I can only hope that she's made friends, that she's having fun, that she's not homesick. (The way that I was when I went to church camp, many moons ago.)
She packed her two favorite teddy bears, Stuffy and Isabelle. She packed a framed picture of me and Gene, one that's she's taken on every sleepover she's ever had, so far as I know. And I packed for her three red envelopes - one for each night of camp, clearly labeled to let her know which one to open and when. I wrote a corny kid joke in each one (that she's sure to love) as well as a note telling her how much we love her, how proud I am of her for going to camp where she knows no one and being excited to meet new people and do new things. Just something for her to have at night, which I know is the hardest time when you're away from home. I hope they help.
And in the midst of wondering what she's up to, the melancholy thought occurs to me that it's not going to get any better. She's just going to get older and go to more places, for longer stretches. Until it's time for college, when she'll be gone all the time and I'll never know exactly where she is or what she's doing or if she's okay.
It's so hard for me to believe that these pictures were taken nearly seven years ago - it seems like just yesterday. Time really does fly, and especially when you have children.
Recognizing this impresses upon me the importance of the (underpaid, underappreciated) job that I'm doing...preparing my girls for the time when they won't be constantly under my vigilant watch. To teach them independence, foresight, social niceties. How to deal with loneliness, peer pressure, major life upheavals. How to embrace new things and, so much harder, how to let go when it's time.
I wonder if I'm up to the task...especially when it's not one that I particularly want. I don't want them to grow up, but it's happening anyway. Lord, please help me to keep up.