Storming the Castle

Chapter Two Text

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 

I Corinthians 13: 11

The Captain and I launched number six this summer.  Our daughter, Emma, is off to the Coast Guard Academy.  

If there is one thing I have learned about the American military academies, it is this:  it is hard to get into them and hard to get out of them.  The application process is a long, grueling series of forms, interviews, essays, tests and health clearances.  If you get accepted (and only a fraction of the kids who apply get in) you report for basic training (Swab Summer) when summer has barely begun; this is followed by a grueling academic year.  After much working and waiting, Emma reported at the end of June.  We are so proud. 

The rest of the family was soon after relocating to Alabama, so we needed to work out logistics of her departure.  Captain Fun is definitely the one who finds the fun at our house, but he has another side to him: when there is a big, scary mountain in front of you, he is the go to guide–a real climbing companion who pays attention to detail and isn’t afraid to ask questions. Still, he offered for me to take Emma, just in case we wanted to make it a mother-daughter thing. 

But Emma was clear.  “I need the more expressive parent to drop me off,” she said.  “Mom will just wave as I get out of the car and say, ‘Have fun storming the castle’. “  I laughed, but I have to admit it is true.  I’m not a cryer when it comes to milestones and goodbyes.  Consequently, I can come across as quite placid at times that call for some emotion. 

Just this morning, in fact, I dropped Hope (my last one) off for her first day of kindergarten and didn’t shed a tear. (Neither did she, so that was a plus).   “I like to think of myself as a softer version of Marilla Cuthbert” (from Anne of Green Gables), I wrote Emma in my first letter to her.  I hope that is a good thing. 

Summer is over, and Emma starts class today at the USCGA. Her sister Mary is also there, and I am so thrilled those girls are together again.  As the youngest of eight kids, six of us girls, I believe you should be with your sister for as long as possible, because one day you will likely end up on the opposite sides of the country, if not the world.  

Emma stormed the castle, just as her sister, Mary, did last year.  In fact, all of our children have stormed their own castles, and we now have six grown kids in five states. Counting Emma, five of them started new schools just this morning. 

Last week I was trying to encourage 13-year-old Dorothy to try out for the sailing team at her new school.  “There is a clinic for beginners,” I told her, “and I know it is scary, but…” 

Here, she interrupted me. “Fear doesn’t matter in this family,” she said, recalling that her dad signed her up to go to an arts camp just three days after we arrived in Alabama.  She was scared, but she went.  It was life changing, she said, and I am so proud for her. Now I am just waiting for sailing clinic sign-ups to open.

For thirty years I have had preschoolers, but as I mentioned, that season ended today.  What I won’t miss is repeatedly having my writing time interrupted. What I will miss the most is fixing lunch during their TV time, then reading them a story or two before nap. A few weeks ago, I read Hope The Three Little Pigs.  No matter which version I pick up, the story always goes something like this: 

Once upon a time there were three little pigs who lived with their mother.  One night as they squeezed around the dinner table, their mother said, “Boys, it is getting too crowded in here.  It is time for you to go out on your own.” 

“You are right,” they said.  So they packed their things and set out on their own.  

I think I have finally figured out why I don’t cry over these milestones:  when kids grow up and leave you, it is the natural order of things.  With a hug and a wave, you say, “Use your head, but have fun storming the castle!” 

As we made the final turn into the school this morning, I asked Hope how she was doing.  “I’m nervous, but I’m brave,” she said, and she hopped out of the car.  

There. There it is.  A healthy amount of nerves, but enough courage to overcome.  

That’s just what Mother Pig told her boys: “Be careful of the Big Bad Wolf,” she called as she waved goodbye. 

Interpretation?   Use your head, keep your wits about you, but have fun storming the castle.

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