They said we’d know by December 17th or 18th. They said the letter would come by mail. U.S. mail. In the mailbox.
December 17th came and went. No letter.
December 18th came and went. No letter.
And so I was awake in the wee hours of the 19th, not realizing at first that it was the day, the day the letter would arrive, that had me awake, feeling anxious.
Please, I prayed, let it say yes. Let it say she’s been selected.RYE
Please, I prayed, let it say no. Let it say that she won’t be going away, that she won’t be leaving me.
How could I want it to say anything but yes? This is what my daughter wants. This is her dream. To be chosen as a Rotary Youth Exchange student for her junior year in high school. What an incredible opportunity. Why would I want the letter to say anything but yes?
How could I want it to say anything but no? This is my baby. My friend. My roommate. My daily joy. How could I send her away for ten months?
But December 19th came and went. No letter.
That left the 20th. Friday the 20th. Surely they wouldn’t make us wonder all through the weekend. Yes, the 20th had to be the day.
But the 20th was problematic. Amy was leaving school early with her swim team for an out-of-town two-day swim meet. She wouldn’t be coming home on the 20th, wouldn’t be home until late afternoon the following day.
“What if the letter comes, Amy? What should I do?”
“What do you mean, what should you do?”
“Should I open it?” How could I not?
“No! Wait for me!” Of course. Of course, I knew I should wait for her. It was her letter. It would be addressed to her. But how could I wait?
And then, there it was. The letter in the mailbox.
I brought it inside. It was well sealed. I held it up to the light. No luck. I texted Amy. Your letter came.
I wasn’t expecting a return text right away. She was at a swim meet, after all. But, she responded within seconds.
My older daughter was there, home, on the couch. “She wants me to open it!” I told her.
“Well, do it, Mom. What are you waiting for?”
“I don’t know.” Yes, I did. “I guess it seems like she should be here.”
“She said open it, didn’t she?”
“Okay.” I slipped one finger under the flap on the back and lifted it carefully, a few millimeters at a time.
“Mom, hurry up! Just tear it open!”
“I can’t.” I sped up a little though until the flap was entirely unsealed and the letter was visible.
I removed the letter from the envelope and held it to my chest.
“It’s too exciting. I’m scared. I’ve never been this scared to open anything before.”
I unfolded the top third and scanned for those crucial first few words. There they were. It is with great pleasure…
Relief. Relief, relief, relief. Relief that my daughter won’t experience the disappointment of not being selected.
I read those five words aloud then, and, once again, put the letter to my heart.
“Come on, mom! Where’s she going?”
It would be in the next paragraph. I folded the bottom third down and there, in capital letters, was…
FRANCE. Her original choice, the country she wanted to go to in the first place, when she started this process two months ago, back when she thought she could choose a country and they’d say okay and that was all there would be to it.
“FRANCE!” I told her sister. Her sister who will be off to college next year. Her sister who knows, as I do, that the time for them to separate after all these years of growing up together will be much easier if they leave home at the same time.
And then I cried. I laughed and I cried. I went into the kitchen and came back to the living room. I sat down. I stood back up.
“I don’t know what to do,” I said.
“Mom, let her go. She’ll be fine.” My daughter looked at me as if I was crazy, as if surely I had to have agreed to letting her go long before this point, this moment of getting the letter.
“No,” I explained. “I mean right now. I don’t know what to do with myself.” I was too thrilled–too needing to talk to Amy, to hug her, to celebrate with her–to do anything else.
The months of preparation begin now.