Rites of Fall

Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap. And neither do they drive their daughter back to college in the fall. So I'm thinking the ravens got off easy. —Luke 12:22ish RSVP

Like death and tax breaks for the rich, autumn brings its own inevitabilities: the crisp, clean air of coming winter, the rhythmic raking of fallen leaves, and the certainty that, at some point during the day, I will drop something really heavy on my foot.

It is time to take my oldest daughter—and all her stuff—back to school, a time of the year made bittersweet by the thought of losing a child (that's the bitter part, in case you were confused), but at the same time regaining a room—a room which can finally be returned to its rightful state of order, a shrine to neatness that one can actually walk into without stepping on a cell phone, or a partially eaten snack, or a cat in the process of eating that snack. This is a room we can now give tours of when friends come over (after which we move them quickly past our younger daughter's room, with the closed door and hastily made sign we put up that says "STORAGE"). With at least one of the children's rooms clean and quiet, I can finally stop wincing at the mental picture of a daughter—my own flesh and blood—hastily vacuuming around cell phones and partially eaten snacks and then stopping to gaze proudly at her accomplishment. Set small goals, I always taught my girls, and then put them off for as long as you can.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 2003
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