Summer, for me, has never been a season of change. It has always meant long walks at the beach, slow conversations in quaint little cafes, lots of journals and books, naps in the sunshine and under a canopy of leaves at the park… It wasn’t until the nights came faster and the air took on a delicate chill, until the dew hung heavily from spiders’ homes late into the morning, until my breaths made blurry shapes in the sky, that I sensed any change. Autumn would come and bring with it the turning of leaves, the scratching of pencils, new and old faces crinkling and wrinkling together in expressions of joy and disdain–classmates happy to see friends from school, yet unhappy to be back at school.
This summer, though, my family and I will be making a cross country trip to the east coast. All I have left of my sweet California is a box full of memories and five, possibly six, days. I will miss the thirty-minute drives down to the beach, which I attempted even in the winter months. I will miss the lazy pace of underdressed people who wander about in stores and coffee shops and quiet streets. I will miss mostly the friends I have made, the ones who have been gifted to me in this beautiful and crazy and almost magical time of my life when tears and words and feelings flowed and glances were shy but embraces, unabashed; this time when notes were slipped into hands and giggles slipped from virgin lips; this time… I will miss this time.
“To miss” means to notice the absence or loss of something. I looked it up because I felt strange in my skin; everyone around me seemed ready and eager to move on. I felt childish and afraid and overly emotional, and while there were those who appreciated the sentiment, there were those who did not understand my attachment. I began to wonder what it meant to miss something or someone. Friends and acquaintances were saying “I’ll miss you” left and right, and I was curious. And yes, I will miss this time. I will notice the loss of a time in my life that felt at times awkward and carefree and altogether new.
I have grown out of the confines of the square building I called my second home, and now new adventures await. Clothes and books have been packed and stacked away. A small box of personal items contains notes and pictures and trinkets that I can’t bear to throw away. Memorabilia. Written words make the best gifts. There are notes from when I was five, seven years old–apologies given to my younger sister. “Sorry notes,” we called them, writing our wrongs on pink stationary cards every time we got into a fight. A small lunch box memo from my mom from when I went on a field trip in the fourth grade. Thank you cards from teachers. Letters from kids who were in my small group. Post-it notes and birthday cards. These signify the epochs of my life, from the big to the small, the mountain highs and valley lows. They signify relationships that have come and gone: a worthwhile measurement of a fulfilling life. Who have you touched, and who have you been influenced by? It is not so much the year-round beach trips that I will miss, nor is it the square building I grew up in. It is the people who let me borrow their string bikini tops, the people who swam alongside me, braving the surf and the sand, those who walked with me along the shore and whispered loving words to me, soft as the water’s foamy edge.
We are off after having been at a six-year crossroads. We are off to make mistakes and make fools of ourselves, off to pursue happiness and friendships. I wish them all that and more. I wish them truth, that they would be honest with themselves and with other people because we are best when honest. When we realize our companions are not friends, we will seek after people who both sharpen and support us. When we realize there is more to this life than having a slightly better car or home or job–that an old car off of Craigslist for $1,200 takes us to places just as well as our neighbor’s BMW, which he works late nights to try and pay off, when we realize that the present day cannot be taken for granted, we will understand the Holden Caulfield of our junior year in high school and (hopefully) not wave it off as a mid-life crisis.
When we realize, and are courageous enough to, with honesty, say that we are not filled with deep joy regardless of circumstance, our neediness will create in us a desire to know the ultimate Truth. That is when the real change begins.
So as I travel across the country and into deeper valleys and onto greater heights, I am assured of one thing. I will not miss God. He is ever-present and has been. He will continue to be. Our family leaves with hope and with faith and obedience, knowing that He is able and willing to give us more than we ever could have imagined or bargained for.