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>Young Apple Tree, December

December 14, 2010

>We got the news this weekend; Eleanor was accepted to her first choice college, Grinnell College in Iowa, which is about eleven hours away from here by road. She is happy. We are happy, because you want the place your child wants to want her. The other reason we’re all happy, of course, is that this means she only has to apply to the one college. She only had to take the SAT once. We made only one last-minute run to the post office. Now, as Ron says, all we have to do is figure out how to pay.

Her joy at finding out she had been accepted (on their website; prospective students no longer have to wait for the fat or thin letter) made me think of a poem I was given a copy of years ago, by a person I knew for one quarter at the commuter college; her name was Ellen. She thought I’d like Gail Mazur’s “Young Apple Tree, December” in December of 1999, when it was first published in The Atlantic. I did, but I like it even better now because of the way I’m feeling about my first child going so far away:

What you want for it you’d want
for a child: that she take hold;
that her roots find home in stony

winter soil; that she take seasons
in stride, seasons that shape and
reshape her; that like a dancer’s,

her limbs grow pliant, graceful
and surprising; that she know,
in her branchings, to seek balance;

that she know when to flower, when
to wait for the returns; that she turn
to a giving sun; that she know

fruit as it ripens; that what’s lost
to her will be replaced; that early
summer afternoons, a full blossoming

tree, she cast lacy shadows; that change
not frighten her, rather that change
meet her embrace; that remembering

her small history, she find her place
in an orchard; that she be her own
orchard; that she outlast you;

that she prepare for the hungry world
(the fallen world, the loony world)
something shapely, useful, new, delicious.

Most of all, I think I like the line “that change/not frighten her” because that’s part of why she made this decision, to find out how well she can manage away from everything familiar. But I do believe she can “take hold” in the place she’s chosen.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. December 14, 2010 12:47 pm

    >Lovely.Best wishes for Eleanor.I cannot, yet, imagine what you must feel as she succeeds and moves ever closer to establishing her own orchard. After all, my own small one still wants to be so close to mama that he all but crowded me off the edge of the bed when he joined us after a nightmare.

  2. December 14, 2010 1:25 pm

    >Because I didn't have daughters, and because I've observed differences in how protective parents often are with daughters–I do wonder if the emotions are different based on the child's gender.Don't get me wrong, I didn't throw a party when my sons left home. Mostly I was excited for them, to see them moving on as emerging adults. I was also nervous, esp with the older son who has type 1 diabetes. It's his disease and was never mine to own but I did worry about how well he'd do without reminders (he did pretty well with only a few hiccups). Then again, maybe I am the freak of a mom 🙂

  3. December 14, 2010 2:00 pm

    >I do, too. I think she'll do just fine. Iowa's not such a bad place to be and it's nice to not have the stress of further apps, etc.

  4. December 14, 2010 2:00 pm

    >Congratulations to her!

  5. December 14, 2010 3:59 pm

    >I like this poem, and actually, I like thinking about it in terms of my own actual apple tree in the back yard. Our soil is clay, not rocky. Hmmm.

  6. December 14, 2010 11:05 pm

    >Congrats to Eleanor! I've been through this rite of passage once (two more to go), and you're right; it's gratifying when the school your kid wants wants her (or him) too.

  7. December 15, 2010 1:27 am

    >Big congratulations to Eleanor!! She must be so excited! And what a lovely poem to mark the occasion.

  8. December 15, 2010 1:34 am

    >Karen, I feel good; I feel like this is the right decision for her. I also feel like you must have an interesting sense of the passage of time, here, since you used to babysit Eleanor when she was only a little older than your small one is now.Elizabeth, I don't know if it's a gender thing, but I do know there are lots of parents less nervous than I am. I observe that the older you are when you become a parent, the more nervous you're likely to be.FreshHell, we're all a little fascinated with how different Iowa feels but how similar the liberal arts college in a very small town is.Amanda, thanks.ReadersGuide, our soil is extremely rocky; you actually have to break sandstone with your shovel if you try to dig a garden.Florinda, I guess we can't beat our first experience!

  9. December 15, 2010 1:36 am

    >Jenny, it's the loveliest poem I could think of for this occasion; glad you like it!

  10. December 15, 2010 1:51 pm

    >Congratulations to your daughter and to you! You chose a truly wonderful and appropriate poem. I remember the feelings when my oldest, my only daughter, went off to college. Letting go and knowing what a big step she is taking, wishing to protect her from the slings and arrows of life, yet trusting to her resilience and good sense to carry her through.

  11. December 15, 2010 3:18 pm

    >Sil in Corea, Yes, that's it exactly…wanting to step in front of the slings and arrows, but knowing that she doesn't need me to do that very much anymore!

  12. December 20, 2010 11:54 am

    >What a lovely poem. It speaks deeply to me, too, as I am sure you can imagine. We will miss Eleanor tremendously. But she is ready.

  13. December 20, 2010 9:16 pm

    >CSchu, reassuring words, yes indeed.

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