"Hello, may I please speak with Ken?" she asked.
"I'm sorry, she's not here at the moment, may I take a message," I replied.
"Is this Ken's mother?" she inquired.
13 years ago I watched as my little girl with her crooked blonde pigtails, boarded the little yellow school bus and drove off into the vast unknown of her future. She was fearless and excited and I was the opposite. I remember watching the taillights of the bus and worrying that she was too young for such an adventure and I remember chiding myself for such thoughts as I wiped away the tears that had slipped down my cheeks and turned away to trudge back up the driveway and into the house.
Letting go was hard to do that morning. It was only with time and the arrival of the little yellow school bus bringing her home that I was able to exhale. My baby was home.
Eventually, the sands of time softened the harsh edges of the fear I held, and we sunk into the trivialities of life. Homework, sports, missing mittens and unmatched socks. It's hard to be scared of the future when you are mired in the present.
"Hi! My name is (redacted) and I'm calling about a scholarship your daughter was nominated for."
"Oh! Hello! I'm Tanis! Is there a message I can pass along to Ken?"
"You're daughter is an amazing young woman. You must be proud of her."
"Yes, yes she is. We are so very proud of her."
Parenthood turned out to be exactly nothing what I expected and everything I never dared to dream. These teenaged years have turned out to be the best of all the years, a reward for all the tantrums and diapers I've had to endure over the years.
As I sat at the kitchen table last night, listening to my teens argue over the merits of matching tuxedos and bowties to grad gowns, that fear I felt 13 years ago came rushing back and tightened it's grip around my heart once more.
My time with my kids is running out. They're standing on the precipice of adulthood, ready to unfurl the wings I've worked so hard to give them and fly out into their futures.
I'm not sure I know how to let them go. This time, there will be no school bus to bring them back to me. This time, I have to trust they will be able to find their way back to me on their own.
"I'm so pleased to inform you that your daughter has been chosen to be a recipient of our scholarship program."
"That's fabulous," I gushed.
"As part of the scholarship, we will be sending your daughter on an internship this summer, before she starts university."
"She's going to be so excited!"
I console myself by remembering my first tastes of adult freedom and my first adult choices. The exhilaration of the unknown. I remember that feeling of missing home and the comfort my parents brought to me. Leaving the nest was just as scary as watching your youngsters take flight. Perhaps scarier.
So I've done what so many parents have done before me; I've tamped down the bitter taste of my own fears and I've pasted a happy smile on my face as I helped fill in university application forms and scholarship applications.
With every application sent, my daughter's hope for the future blossoms and my fear of the unknown rises a little further in my throat.
With every acceptance letter that arrives in the mail, I smile wider and swallow harder.
The months have marched on, drawing her future nearer as our time together dwindles. Soon her life will be foreign to me, a series of anecdotes related over texts, stories shared as she washes her laundry at my house before dashing off to chase her dreams once more.
So I smile hard as I watch the days pass on the calendar, grateful for every remaining moment of her childhood I have left, determined to squeeze every drop of joy out of these last few months I have her under my roof before she forges off on her own.
"We're pleased to tell you that she'll be spending this summer in India as part of our leadership awards program," the voice on the other end of the phone chirped on.
"India! That is wonderful! She'll be so very excited!"
"It is a wonderful program and we're so pleased to have Ken involved!"
"An opportunity of a life time!" I smiled.
I stood on the deck this morning, watching as the kids loaded Knox onto the school bus and then my daughter hopped into her car and waved goodbye as she followed the bus to school. Her life is too busy now, packed with activities and a job, for her to ride the little yellow bus.
A parade of taillights drove off into the distance, taking my family with them, and as my dog wove his way around my legs I realized it wasn't long before some of those taillights don't come back.
In just a few months, my daughter will be on the other side of the world, in India, forging her own path, only to return to a dorm, to start the long journey of making her own dreams come true. I worry she is too young for such an adventure and I then chide myself for such thoughts.
In another short year, I will see the taillights of my son as he drives away from me and into a future he will create for himself.
Soon it will just be Knox and I under the roof that we call home.
Fear gurgled up as the sky bloomed into a beautiful sunrise.
As I swallowed, I realized, I am not scared for their futures. I am scared for mine. All of these years I've held the comfort of the familiar around me like a warm cloak to keep fear at bay and now I find myself standing at another precipice, that warm cloak slipping off my shoulders.
I've grown up while raising littles to grown ups and once again, like all those years ago when I was a teenager myself, my future is unknown, shiny with all the possibilities within. And still, letting go is hard.
"You're daughter is an exceptional young lady. This is such an exciting time. Her future is so bright!"
"Yes, yes it is."
The same could be said for mine.
May the camels of your future carry you far and always bring you back home to us.
Congratulations Ken, on all your hardwork and dedication over the years. We are so very proud of the person you are and all that you have, and will, accomplish in your future. Here's to India, a future filled with possibilities and knowing we are out here loving you, no matter where in the world you land.