Let Her Go
I went into Vivi’s room after she was asleep to pull the covers up on her shoulder and tuck Pengy under her chin. I pushed a curl behind her ear. So tiny, this girl. The girl who is already asking me how old she needs to be before she can go to camp. It’s becoming real to me, after all these years of watching her grow in baby steps–there will come a day when she goes off on an adventure without me. There will come a night when she falls asleep, with Pengy tucked under her chin, and I will be somewhere far away. She already wants to go. And I will let her go.
All this camp talk got stirred up because Vivi and I took a little road trip this weekend to deliver our friend Abigail to three weeks of camp at the Duke TIP program. Duke’s Talent Identification Program is a place for gifted teens to find their tribe. Abigail’s mother Rachel and I met at a similar program–Governor’s Honors–back in the summer of 1985. Rachel is one of the Elephant Painters. When she found herself trapped by an impossible scheduling conflict, I jumped at the chance to take Abigail on this adventure.
I adore Abigail because she’s funny. When I asked her if the students were allowed to leave campus, she said, “Oh, no. They freak out if we even talk to a stranger walking by on the sidewalk. They’re real worried about…wandering prodigies, I guess.” Within 30 seconds, she and I had turned this into an improvisation skit. I growled in my best police radio static voice “BOLO, we got a 1600 SAT on the loose. Subject was last seen wearing a Doctor Who shirt and skinny jeans.”
That’s the kind of kid Abigail is. Love. Her.
But four hours in the car with a wandering prodigy and a seven year old tornado required some compromise, especially since some dumbass (ahem…me) has recently given Vivi the “Frozen” soundtrack. So we came to an agreement–Abigail and I got to talk about books and music and angst and TV and movies and poems and nerves and books again for 15 minutes. After our time was up, we listened to Vivi belt out “For the First Time in Forever.” Then Vivi went back to reading her book for another 15 minutes while Abigail tried to convince me that Benedict Cumberbatch really is the most beautiful creature in the world and I tried to get her to admit that he looks like his parents were first cousins. Then Vivi sang “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” We talked about life in the small town and life in the big city. Abigail told me that she was nervous about her time at camp. I told her that I had felt the same way before GHP. We talked about anxiety and coping and remembering that EVERYONE feels that way in a new situation. Then we hit the Play button and Vivi sang “Let It Go,” complete with dramatic flourishes and hand gestures.
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free!
Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You’ll never see me cry!
We stopped at a roadside peach stand in North Carolina so I could introduce Abigail to the wonders of Blenheim ginger ale. As we stretched our legs with a browse around the peanut brittle, peach cider, and fireworks, all three of us were humming “Let It Go.” Abigail bemoaned, “I can’t show up to a COLLEGE singing THAT SONG.” She feared that humming a Disney song might give her roommate the wrong impression, a faux pas that no number of Marvel Comics references could erase. Lose all her cool points.
Remember that feeling? That overwhelming excitement about joining a totally new group of people to do a totally new thing? The chance to redefine, putting forth a curated version of your best self? I do. But the curated version of myself that I present to others and my authentic self have gotten a lot closer together over the years.
It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all!
The bottle opener for the ginger ales was mounted by the exit door. I popped mine in the curve and with a twist of the wrist, the cap fell down into the receptacle. I stepped aside so Abigail could open hers.