Friday, June 11, 2004

There's no bridge to Britain

My youngest sister is flying to London today. She'll be there for six or seven weeks taking classes. She's the first person in the immediate family to leave the country.

I talked to both her and my mother this morning. Mom's concerned, of course, and anxious about her baby being so far away. Steph's also nervous, but I think she's trying to cover it up. When I talked to her, she was in the process of re-packing, having decided she didn't have enough clothes already packed.

I don't remember being very concerned when I went away to college, maybe because I knew there would be plenty of other new people around. But I remember the summer after my sophomore year when I came to Iowa to be a camp counselor.

I had never actually visited the camp (on-campus interview). In fact, I had never actually set foot in the state of Iowa prior to this time. I didn't have a car, so my mom drove me over. Inside my head was this constant litany: "I don't know anyone here. What if the other staff don't like me? What if I don't like them? What if I hate it? What have I done?"

Meanwhile, there's this gorgeous scenery going by. I grew up in central Illinois, and I had expected Iowa would look essentially the same. Somehow it's different though. There's more water here for one thing. More gentle hills. More little nooks and crannies.

So there we were, my mother and I, driving through this beautiful landscape, neither of us saying a whole hell of a lot, while I'm silently freaking out. After a long period of silence, out of nowhere mom said, "If you need me, you call, and I can be there in five hours."

I was not quite nineteen at the time, and mom and I were still recovering from my adolescence while struggling to figure out what our adult-to-adult relationship was going to look like. In that moment, I not only knew that mom understood what I was going through, but also that, no matter what I did, she had my back.

Now my sister's just a little over nineteen and she's crossing the ocean. Mom can't drive that far. Still, I just hope Steph knows that no matter what we're all going to be there for her.