Blank Space

“Has it hit you yet?”

I’ve had several people ask me this in the past week. The short answer is “No.”

Our oldest child recently graduated from high school and we’re just now emerging from the month-long marathon of her graduation. This spring has been one track meet and banquet and celebration after another. And it’s been wonderful.

It just doesn’t feel real. Even seeing the pictures of my daughter wearing her cap and gown, high-fiving the kids at her former elementary school made me think, “That looks fun! And I hope she hangs up her gown so we don’t have to press it again.”

Caroline agreed that it felt like we were in a production of some kind, with set changes, programs and costume demands. 

It was like it was happening to someone else’s kid.

I think my brain was running interference for my heart, blocking out emotions so I could handle what needed to be handled. I couldn’t be sentimental.

The whole family rallied for all of Caroline’s celebrations. I even kicked the can down the road on a few things my other kids needed because I wanted to give Caro my full attention during this time. In my quiet moments, when I could be still and pray, what I heard over and over was “Don’t miss this.” I’ve been physically present, but I’ve also been a little emotionally detached.

But now, a week after her graduation, I am sensing a pretty big shift in my heart and in our household. I feel it the most when I look at my right hand.

When I graduated from high school, I was given a family ring that belonged to my great-grandmother. The tradition is that it is given to the oldest daughter, whose middle name is Hinton, when she graduates from high school. I have worn it every day since 1991. On Friday, I took off the Hinton ring, put it in a box, and gave it to my oldest daughter. 

The ring isn’t especially valuable, but it carries a lot of emotional currency. My mom wore it before me and her mom wore it before her. For 28 years, that ring accompanied me on all my journeys. I wore it to college and to graduate school; I wore it on my honeymoon and into every house we bought; I wore it when I gave birth to my first two kids and when I met the next two at the hospital; I wore it when I was planting gardens and when I was baptizing infants. I wore it as I built an adult life.

Now, every time I look at my right hand, I worry that I’ve lost my ring. Then, I remember that it’s Caro’s ring now. I remember that one phase of my life is over and that a new one is beginning.

The blank space on my right hand seems important to acknowledge. I thought about replacing the ring, but for now, I need the physical reminder that things are changing. My daughter is not going into 13th grade. She’s moving into a college dorm. In a thousand small ways, she is asking for more independence and our trust and room to grow. 

I’m working on figuring out how to give her those things. In the meantime, I gave her a ring, as a kind of a promise that I do trust her to build her own adult life. It will be a different life than mine, but it will be full of joy and determination; scrappiness and grace. It will be uniquely and wonderfully Caroline’s. 

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  • Wow, what a moving and wonderful post. I’ll pass it on to our son and daughter-in-law whose oldest child just graduated from high school. Thank you, Anna, for your grace-full wisdom and insights.

  • Beautiful! I’ll have a high school graduate in 2 years and I’m already wondering how I’ll handle it. Thank you for your insight on life.

  • So beautiful and loving and as honest as u can be at this point. Blessings on you and much gratitude for sharing w us! Anne s