The countdown began early.
In some ways, time was always a huge part of the entire academic year for our Spanish daughter.
She was astonished when the first week came to an end, and then the first month followed closely after. Soon, she shifted from counting how much time had flown by, and started worrying about how much time she still had left.
Every holiday, every occasion, every moment was cataloged and logged into her memory. The last soccer practice, the Christmas tree, every trip, prom, the final lacrosse games… everything was photographed. And cherished.
We knew the real “lasts” would come. It’s part of the process.
But that does not mean that the process is easy, or one you necessarily want to go through. It’s intense if you happen to be a teenager, living in a different country for the first time. It’s especially moving if you happened to have had a really great year–which all of our area’s exchange students did.
Around January, I shared with all of them a quote–from Dr. Seuss: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” It seemed particularly appropriate as they all passed through so many milestones during these ten months.
By May, it was a near constant refrain: This is my last practice. This is my last field trip. This is my last photography assignment. This is my last test in biology.
Time marches on. No matter how much you try to slow it down, the clock is relentless. The final weeks went faster than ever, and soon we were down to the final preparations.
Her last full day was typical. There was some necessary paperwork for school, followed by lunch and fun with American girlfriends. The evening was reserved for our family supper, complete with the traditional “two good things of the day”. We had a bonfire with friends who came by for one more goodbye. Determined to get the very most of every remaining minute, she chose to stay up all night, packing and talking with friends throughout the night.
We reserved a special hour for a sunrise walk together, just for the two of us … and she followed the hike with a final pancake breakfast made by her American father.
And then reality was really here, and the suitcases had to go into the car. Hugs were given to the dogs with tears streaming down her face. And good byes had to be said to one sibling and her American dad. A few hours drive later, there was no more delaying it: she had to walk through the security screening, and go back into her previous life. The final goodbyes were said to those of us who could go to the airport with her.
We will see her again–the tickets are already purchased and plans are already made. And we “see” and “talk” with her often, through Skype, Instagram, Facebook, emails, Messenger. But there is still that hole here.
“Do not cry because it is over. Smile because it happened.”
Wise guy, that Dr. Seuss.