One Very Cold Tuesday in May

It was dismaying this morning to wake up to 38 degrees. Not as dismaying as waking up to wet snow, like the people in Michigan’s UP did, but not what we want in May. Not at all.

May is one of those transition months here in Minnesota. Things are beginning to flower, but there is still that chance of frost, that chance that anything tender will get killed. We have to be patient, not put seedlings out too soon. We keep things in their pots, bring them inside when it dips below 40 degrees. If we have been impatient, or overly optimistic, the seedlings that are already in the soil get bedclothes to ward off the chill. In the mornings, we rush to see if they survived.

I’ve been thinking about those transitions, how tricky they are, as I’ve helped my daughter Abby move home from college for the summer. We brought home the last of her items last night, cleaned the student apartment together, bid it farewell. Together with her father, we lugged futon, bedding, end table, kitchen items, and odds and ends that fit no specific category into our basement. By the time we finished, it was nearly 9 p.m. and we headed out to a late supper at the nearby Buffalo Wild Wings.

Abby wasn’t planning on coming home for the summer until recently. Her student apartment lease was supposed to go until mid-August. The University, however, ended all leases at May 31 and let students know that they needed to tell them if they chose to stay for some reason. Abby decided that, if we were willing, she would come home and save some money. And we decided that we would love to have her back in our house once more.

Any parent of a young adult knows that letting go is excruciating. And welcoming a kid back home, once you’ve said goodbye, is both wonderful and terribly tricky. While you’re still the parent and this kid is in your house, they are also a young adult who has been on their own. They have become used to making their own decisions, in their own time and their own space. Sure, there are those who would argue that parents paying the bills have the final authority. And I would say it isn’t that simple. Nurturing young adults who are capable of managing their lives requires us to let them stand in cold ground when the temperature drops and realize they need to put on socks without us saying anything. But it’s hard to see our kids choose the very thing we wouldn’t, to know that they don’t have the same long-range vision that our experience has given us, and that we, too, made all kinds of stupid choices back in the day.

I keep thinking about the seedlings outside that need us to watch over them. That’s exactly what I’d like to do for my daughter – watch over her even though she’s usually quite capable. Protect her from the coldness of the world. Give her a blanket even if she’s inclined to throw it off.

Parents and gardeners take their tasks seriously. Optimism and impatience often live in the same body. The commonality is in the urge to nurture life.

Welcome home, Abby.

all photos by KC Mickelson 2015


10 comments

  1. Kathleen, this is truly a beautiful summary of that transitioning time, this letting go. It’s so difficult sometimes. A dear friend reminds me that we must give our children “roots and wings, roots and wings.” That said, I am seriously jealous (but happy for you) that you have your sweet Abby home. I have not seen my son in four months and I don’t know when I will. Christmas? This long-distance separation can sometimes challenge. There are days my heart almost hurts for missing him.

    • I know exactly what you mean. I’ve thought about how it would feel if one of my kids decides to move across the country or even out of it. I suspect I might rack up a lot of frequent flyer miles.


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