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QUINTESSENCE

A City

And where
there was chaos
it was graven in strokes of righteous angularity:
bolus of a city inscribed by giant needles,
nexus of highways, tangle of vectors on crumpled papyrus,
power lines across the pine forest, fate line
engraved in the lithosphere
of the palm...

- from A City in the Clouds, Campbell McGrath

This weekend, my daughter, 23, and I, loaded her red Jeep with as much of her future life as we could stuff in and drove the nearly 300 miles from Spokane to Seattle. She is beginning her first year as a medical student at the University of Washington Medical School. Kate is setting up shop near the U District with a new roommate in a modest two bedroom apartment- in the words of Campbell McGrath, "A new land, a new sea. A new world. A city." Her home for the next four years has as it's main advantage, proximity to the medical school; and its main attraction, a balcony set within a canopy of maple trees. We are nothing, my children and I, if not people of the trees.

An interesting paradox, new beginnings. My daughter left a small, tightly-knit east coast city, New Haven, for a west coast life in Seattle, a sprawling basin of twinkling lights nestled deep in the steep pine forests above Puget Sound. A shift in cultures, geography, climate... And a marked new chapter in her life. The process of moving in and furnishing a small space efficiently and inexpensively - after all, funding this professional education is her nickel - immediately and inevitably meant navigating the Renton Ikea warehouse, and tools in hand, cross-legged on the floor of an empty apartment, building assembly furniture channeling all the inspiration available from memories of childhood Lego builds with her younger brother. We took a break for margaritas and fresh Mex, basking in the warm sun dockside on the waterfront at a laid-back bistro on the Montlake Cut. Sweaty, fatigued, bemused, I gazed on the face of the happy adult young woman opposite me and realized my daughter was under full sail: out on open waters, underway toward a future chosen by her, earned by her, and solely in her hands.

It is one very special experience to raise a child; to be given the spiritual and physical fiduciary trust and responsibility to nurture another's unformed body and soul. It is another blessing entirely to see that child, grown, step from the protective circle of your arms and into the world with confidence and commitment. I raised my glass. I toasted to her future. I let go the child. Released the burdens and privileges of decades of guidance and care and accepted the new-found graces of friendship, pride, and gratitude.

From an end, a beginning. A new land, a new sea. A city. A life.


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