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Well this is it. Rosie loaded her big suitcase into the back of her friend’s van at 6:30 a.m., and they drove into the dark morning. She didn’t feel ready to go and that made it all the harder to say goodbye. She spent most of her winter break vacationing in LA and Mexico with the family – which she loved and appreciated – but she realized she did not get her fill of Humboldt.

Kind of heart-warming, and such a welcome change from her attitude after the summer break. Four months of Humboldt was decidedly too much for a girl who loves the city. A girl who’s afraid of our new chickens who now scrabble around the yard and chase her as she walks to the car. (Okay, I guess she has an excuse. At three years old she was chased by a mean rooster we had inherited who pecked her leg pretty good. She has scars to this day – and not just on her knee apparently.)

But I digress. It seems you can take the girl out of Humboldt but you can never take Humboldt out of the girl. Born and raised here, I have a feeling my youngest daughter will always feel the call of the redwoods and the rivers – even if she can only make fleeting visits.

I hold her tight and kiss and hug her one last time, sensing when I next  see her she will be changed. Poised to turn 21, I think some big shifts are in store for my baby in the coming months.

Ciel is about to leave again too. Oh, she hasn’t been here at home, but she’s been living close by for more than half a year now. In fact, 2011 will go down in my mental history as the year of Ciel. We started the year traveling in Bali for an entire month, and our parting was so bittersweet. Then, for various reasons to complicated to go into now, they moved up here – supposedly just for the summer. Well, summer slipped into fall and they stayed.

But now, their careers and educations call them southward. They move to the Bay Area in just a couple of weeks. So my afternoons spent in easy companionship with my oldest are soon to end. The spontaneous bike rides, the dinner parties together, the hikes and camping trips, and days spent working on a project together – it will all be harder if not impossible to arrange.

Back to texting, email and the occasional phone call. No longer can I offer my arms to hold her tight when she cries over the latest fall out with her man. God, that’s one of the hardest parts of having them be far away. When they call me in tears, pouring out their grief, rage or sadness, and all I can do is flounder for the right words. A million words can never equal the balm of a good hug and cuddle.

When they’re  babies we worry every time they wheeze with congestion or burn with fever, when they’re toddlers we worry when they run off into a crowd or that they’ll fall and hit their head, when they’re teenagers we worry every time they walk out the door. And then they fly away to their own adventures. And still we worry.

Will Rosie finally make some deep, loving connections on the East Coast? Will she slip on the ice and break her leg? Will she remember to never take her eyes off her drink when she’s out partying in those Boston bars? Is she okay there at that school, and was it the right choice? Will her artistic gift cause as much angst as joy, as it is for so many artists? How long will it take for her to recognize how amazing she truly is? To own and celebrate what she has to offer the world?

And Ciel. She is headed into her Saturn return year. The coming months and years most likely hold some huge changes for her. Will she find a job in public health that satisfies her? Can she make enough money to survive in San Francisco? Will she connect with more people, find friends that nourish her soul? And more to the core of things: is she allowing her true self to be stifled by a relationship that isn’t really working?

She loves her man so much, and I know he loves her in return. But they are so very different in how they want to live life. Is love really enough then? As a mother, it breaks my heart to see the pain in her face when things are bad. How can a relationship that is just as much crying and arguing as it is happy moments sustain itself? Of course I know that a certain amount of argument is healthy in a relationship. Much better than stuffing the feelings. But this constant? I worry so much!

I don’t want my daughter to settle just because it is safe and comfortable before she even turns 30. I squirm with the knowledge that I may have passed on to her this fear of risk, this unwillingness to let go and step into the unknown, this lack of belief in her own worth.

I know I’ve given them so much that is good, but oh how I cringe at all the negative stories they have learned from me. May they both learn to let go of those stories far sooner than I figured out how to let go of mine. (Have I even learned that one yet?)

They will flail, they will fall down, they will be disappointed, their hearts will break, they will grieve. I can’t stop it. And I know I shouldn’t even try. My daughters have to experience all of this if they are to live life to the fullest.

I know I’ll never stop worrying. But I’ll also never stop cheering them on and holding this vision of each of them stepping into her own beautiful potential.