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After They’ve Seen Paris

“Is it always this dead on Friday nights?” The college boy had home for ten minutes and the perfunctory welcomes and unpacking were done. He had been away for less than three full months, but the question highlighted how a few months can make an entire lifetime.

“I drove through the center of town, and there was no one out– at 9 o’ clock!”

“Well, it’s almost winter,” I said. The dairy bar has closed for the season, and the school sports teams have finished their fall championships. Absent a benefit supper at one of the churches, there is little to pull people away from their woodstoves at this time of year.

This should not be a new discovery for Thing1, but after a few months of being surrounded by midnight cookie delivery restaurants (yes, that’s a thing) and pick-your-favorite-food places, he has made no secret of the fact that his tiny hometown is, well, tiny.

The tininess is what drew us to the Arlington, VT area almost 20 years ago. We know most of our kids’ friends’ parents. We see their teachers at Little League and suppers. The  country store — the only store in our valley — proudly boasts, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it,” and, for the better part of the last 2 decades, the entire family has been on board with that philosophy.

But now Thing1 is discovering the other philosophies outside our mountains and valleys — as he should, and we’re discovering that, even though he’s home for the holiday, there’s a little, adventuring part of him that may not come home again for a long time.

In my head, I knew even three months ago that, once he’d “seen Paris”, he might not come back as the confirmed country boy we’d known all these years. But knowing something in my head and watching my first-born become the adventurer he’s supposed to be adds a bittersweet sting to the cutting of yet another apron string. It’s a realization that, even as he’s making his identity, I may be on the precipice of creating a new one for myself as well.

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