Dinner in a small town, a late night of watching wedding shows and laughing, and we turned in.
The girls were restless.
The mamas were, too.
Katie slept with me, admonishing me to keep to my side of the bed and I better not snore!
She tossed and she turned and finally she settled,
with her hand in mine.
All night long she lay close, holding my hand, placing it under her cheek as she slept, and I prayed.
The sun rose and I watched her sleep. That face that I nuzzled as an infant, that used to smell like lavender baby lotion and formula. Those cheeks that were once so soft. The eyelashes gracing her cheeks, exactly like they did when she was just days old and sleeping in my arms.
Oh, how do I let her go? How did I ever think she was ready to be away from me for a month? She is only ten...what were we thinking?
Then her eyes fluttered open and she smiled all happy and excitement. She jumped out of bed and looked at the clock to see exactly how many minutes she had to wait before we left and do we have to eat breakfast because I'm not hungry and oh I'm so excited and I wonder if I'll get the bed I want and who will be in my cabin and when do you plan on leaving, Mom?
Must. Stay. Calm.
Must. Not. Cry.
Breakfast and the slowly ticking clock and the sudden panic of lost keys but we found them and then we were on our way.
Her face was alight.
Traffic jam of 300 girls and their parents trying to unload all the stuff they would need for a month away and we lugged that tuquoise trunk into her cabin and she got the bed she wanted. She set it up just right and posed proudly with a nervous smile. Her counselors were all smiles and warmth and love and now I love them like they were mine and I took a picture to look at as I pray.
Because nothing brings a mama to her knees like her chick leaving the nest and testing those fragile wings.
We had cookies on the lawn and Katie stuck by my side, needing nearness as the farewell approached. But then I looked up and she had walked away.
She stood amongst a group of girls smiling and laughing and I froze the moment in time. I stepped back a little to frame it in my memory just right and I praised Him who allowed me to see her do this, to see her brave and courageous determination to push aside insecurity and walk up to them.
Conversations and laughter later we went back to her cabin for one last look.
It was time.
Must. Not Cry.
I hugged her hard and kissed her harder on those cheeks that were once so soft and told her this hug had to be hard so it would last the month.
"I'll write you every day, Mom."
"No, you won't, and that is ok." I smiled. "But I will write you! I love you so much. Daddy and I are so proud of you and you are going to have such a great time! Don't worry, ok? Everyone is going to be fine. Missing you doesn't mean you have done something wrong, it just means they love you, ok?"
"I love you, mama."
"I love you, too."
The head counselor, (God bless her. We had been standing there chatting and remembering when we met and how and talking about our girls) she took that perfect moment and gently said "Katie, do you want to show me your bed?"
And off they walked. But one last look back was needed. She turned and smiled that brave smile and whispered "I love you." And I did the same and blew her a dozen kisses and they were gone.
My friend and I got into the car with miraculously dry eyes and high fived at the miracle of it all, and drove away. As we left, Jennifer met us at the gate and asked sweetly, "How are y'all doing."
"Fine, we are fine," we said.
She laughed and leaned against the door of the car.
"You are all, 'fine...can't you see we are talking through clenched teeth and trying not to cry? Why you gotta do me like that, huh? Why you gotta go and ask how we are??'"
And we all laughed the laugh of tension releasing and left assured that our girls are in the best of hands.
And we stopped and got Diet Cokes and Mint M&M's because it made us feel better.
And I didn't cry until this morning when I woke up and I was here and she is there and at this moment she is worshiping Jesus on the rocks by the river.
She will be home in 24 days. I hope it goes fast for me, but oh, I hope this is life-changing and life-affirming for her. I hope this brings her to a place with Him that she could have never otherwise been. I hope this prepares her for the teen years by casting aside the insecurities that threaten our girls and making her keenly aware of how able she is to do all things through Him who truly gives her strength.