"Mama," announced my oldest son last week or so, "I think I'm old enough to go visit our neighbor."
We don't have many neighbors living in the country, and we've not made awesome headway meeting the ones we have. (Much to my frustration. I wish so much I were better at such things.) But our "next-door" neighbor across the field came and introduced himself right when we moved in, and he's awesome. He's 80 now, and still lives in the ~1100 sq ft house where he and his wife, who passed away almost ten years ago now, raised their nine children. Although in the winter we will go weeks without seeing him, he's the closest thing we have here to a grandparent, and the boys love him. He used to have an auto-repair shop, and he still tinkers on cars for friends, as well as his two vintage 40's-era autos.
"That's fine with me, but we'll have to check with him," I said. When we stopped to visit the other day, I asked him. "Oh sure, sure," he said, "That'd be fahn."
I've wondered vaguely on occasion when they, especially my son Finn, would want to spread his wings past our little fenced-in domain. I shouldn't be surprised it's "so soon"--well before I was his age, I was flitting around to neighbors, to the little gas station on the corner where the owner brought his dog to work, even walking to school--a good half mile, maybe more. I relished the freedom of those days, the freedom to explore and the security waiting for me at home. I'm sure some days we were gone longer than we were home, and I bless my mother for her "hands-free parenting" style because those memories remain bursts of sunshine, as fresh and daring and delightful now, almost, as the experiences themselves.
I called to check on them a bit ago, and they were happily pounding scrap nails into scrap wood. My brave adventurers are home now, and I confess: They are ready, I know, but I didn't realize how much it would stretch this mama heart. Help me have open hands, Lord, to let them be.