Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Great Separation

this evening, we are watching the 'seven up' series made by granada tv & michael apted. they began filming in the sixties young seven year old english children from a wide range of social and economic classes. they then followed the kids from every seven years into their late forties to observe the changes in them, their societies and their values. i've had it for a couple of years and not seen it. this week, it's a good way to provide some needed perspective on our own lives & children...

our first son, joshua shumshere, left our garden home in budhanilkantha and his familiar world in kathmandu on sunday morning to start 11th grade at a respected, progressive boarding school in massachusetts near the vermont border.

this is a deeply felt time. i call it, 'the great separation'. it's full of pain, reflection and knowing.

as ezra, our second son, said after dinner on sunday, 'life will never be the same'. i couldn't even look up from my food knowing that josh wasn't there again and unable to look at everyone else.

if you had asked me before this year, i would have said that i would never have agreed to let my children go away to boarding school. when the boys were small and shakun would speak of her experience at boarding schools in the kathmandu valley, i would say, 'if you send them to boarding school, i will go there to teach.' i was the 'runaway bunny' parent. there was simply no way i wanted my sons away from us as long as i could avoid it.

but, a combination of joshua's rapid maturity, the continuing political/economic disturbances in kathmandu, limited petrol & electricity (they say eleven hours of power cuts per day come march), the fact that he'd spent his full sixteen years in this sequestered world, his evolving dreams, his soccer ambitions, the departure of many of his friends already to colleges in the states and, possibly, the knowledge that he would need to leave this comfortable valley to face the larger world soon enough, so why not start early, a young american coming home to a country, an identity, a world, he's never really known.

yet, in truth, i don't think any of us are quite prepared for this natural division -- this great separation -- b/n parents & children. particularly in comparison with how easily, as youth, we left our parent's adolescent homes. now, over the past weeks, i have come to know how traumatic it can be for us, parents, who have gradually, naturally, almost unconsciously, built a life around our children and families with all of the daily joys, anxieties and togetherness that we almost take for granted as a birthright, nearly forgetting the lengthy and, at times, troubled, path to finding this docile and domesticated security.

as a friend at work said, quoting a nepali expression, "parents pour all of their love on the heads of their children while the children pour their love on the top of a stone.' in truth, our children are not quite that harsh -- as i can only imagine how josh feels leaving us, as well, with his deep sensitivity, affection & kindness.

after all, exhausted as we were at six thirty in the morning by the emotions of the event, we were so proud of him sunday morning, tall, confident full of hope & anticipation as he began his solitary, epic journey across the oceans toward his own future. how mature. how courageous. how solitary.

yet, we wonder how easily it will be for him to settle in to the brave, new world of new england, america and his expectations for himself...

when my mom & sister claudia say goodbye to him tomorrow on the campus of northfield mount hermon at his new dormitory, how will he feel? will the excitement of new horizons, new challenges & new opportunities fill his sails through the immediate squall of separation? will he feel the loss as deeply as we do? or, will the lure of his beloved soccer pitch, new friends and multiple stimuli excite his sixteen year old mind?

there is so much for him in that cloistered, lush, ambitious hill top world.

yet, for us, the loss is profound. sixteen years together and, as ez says, our lives will never be the same. a major passage has swept over us. a profound stage in our lives as individuals, parents and a family crept up on us while we were still indulging ourselves in simpler, almost unrealized, rapidly passing joys. our boy, to our great pride, seemed to become a young man. our apprehensive child matured into an explorer, an adventurer, a discoverer. from a passenger on his parent's ship, he was quietly building his own craft to set sail on his own, away from us, beyond us, ahead of us, leading us forward to unknown seas.

still, shakun & i are fortunate to have ez & ms. leah in this home with us still, at least temporarily. for that reason, i spent the day in grade one today w/ ms. leah prajna rose and her friends. primary school is soothing that way. reassuring, calming with the implicit joy of children.

yet, that 'great separation' looms somewhere on the horizon, over the rainbow and dark clouds. for not even the beauty and peace of our garden home can replace the raw, rich, penetrating reality of parenting and the easy love of caring for a child, your own child.

alas, there is more profound loss ahead for all of us. knowing that in the deep heart's core does nothing to lessen their impact or pain...

for such metamorphoses are the nature of our existence.

bless you, joshua shumshere, you have given us more than we would ever have imagined when we first met.

you have been a gift to your parents. thank-you.

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