Waking up to a lazy sunrise. The cat parked on the kitchen floor staring up with saucer-like eyes. She's hungry and annoyed. According to her internal feeding clock, I'm tardy.
The rest of the house sleeps. I take the first pull of caffeine. Today will be like no other.
Our oldest child is coming home for the last time.
At age 25, there had been previous homecomings for our daughter, the eldest of our trio of offspring by eight years.
Every summer after being away at college, where she'd earned a sports scholarship to one of the country's best schools, she returned home as if she were a little girl on Christmas morning.
Her summers were action packed.
With her car in storage for the better part of the year, she unleashed its alabaster Honda glory in the dawn light as she hauled her weary butt to the gym. She nosed her way into guys' pick-up games wherever she could. She even vacuumed the family room on occasion. She also made a few bucks, here and there, dabbling as a barista.
Mostly, though, she just basked in being home.
If memory is correct, a smile occupied her face 95 percent of the time. Group trips to Target for mouthwash and feminine products were planned with enthusiastic inclusion. She lovingly argued with her brothers over who could crush dinner with the greatest savagery. She chortled while trading bouts of flatulence with her elementary-age brother -- until their Xbox contest ended with the reminder that our youngest was still learning how to lose with grace.
And almost daily, whether it worked out or not, our daughter attempted to spend time together even if it was just 15 minutes chilling at the kitchen table.
It's her childlike joy of being home that causes me to draw pause.
Later this summer, she will take the hand of a lanky, three-point shooting young man from Indiana, who, like her, plays basketball most of the year across the pond.
Her own home will be her calling.
She landed at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport to a sky stonewashed in blue and wispy clouds. On the curb outside the baggage claim, the family welcomed her with happy, loud words and hugs.
Back at the house, I shoveled my work stuff into a backpack and topped off the coffee mug for the commute downtown.
Outside, the trees flitted in a peaceful breeze. The air bore not a sniff of humidity. It was the kind of summertime day in Minnesota that can become legend.
Returning home later, I know I will again be reawakened by her wisdom: All that matters is counted on one hand.
The good old days are really small moments. Those, that if we are aware enough to pay attention to, somehow magically soak into our being.
As I flung my backpack over my shoulder and closed the front door, melancholy struck. This would be the summer something would be lost, yet a whole new world was about to be unveiled through new eyes.
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