Tomorrow is my daughter’s last day of high school. As a high school assistant principal, I have not only had the privilege of driving my daughter to school every day, but I have spent the last four years walking the same halls, popping into the same classrooms, bumping into her in the same cafeteria.
“This is the golden age of something good and right and real.”“State of Grace”
I have also spent the entirety of her pre-teen and teenage years listening and singing to Taylor Swift. This morning as we drove to school it was no different. My daughter loves to listen to as many T. Swift songs in our 25 minute drive as possible, so I get a daily sampling of all the albums in a myriad of styles.
“I remember it all too well.”“All Too Well”
It hit me this morning — not only that my sweet girl won’t be sitting in the passenger seat anymore — but that our drives have had a Swift soundtrack. The song choices would often depend on the boy or the friendship or the mood – but they consistently followed a Taylor Swift vibe – and I have watched my daughter grow up right alongside her.
“It’s hard not to find it all a little bittersweet.”“Tim McGraw”
I could probably pair up most of our car conversations with a Taylor song – and this morning she played “our” song for just a few seconds until she said, “I won’t make you cry this morning, Mom.” I fought hard not to ugly cry and melt into a teary puddle that very moment. Too many lasts. Too many memories. All the moments converged as I drank in her smile, her braids, her silly grin.
“Take the moment and taste it. You’ve got no reason to be afraid.”“You’re on Your Own, Kid”
There is this awesome weighty privilege to being a mom. I have been conditioned to PROTECT PROTECT PROTECT until that day – coming soon in August – I am commissioned to let her fly, place her like a pure white dove in my hand, pushing her off to her destiny. Not that parenting stops (trust me, that won’t happen) but the culmination of all my “obey with a happy heart” and “live where your feet are” and “choose joy” and “it’s okay to cry” crashes together and [hopefully] sustains her to the precipice of the next big college adventure.
“And you just might find where you’re supposed to be.”“Fifteen”
The lump in my throat feels almost too big to swallow this next milestone. And like Taylor says, “I don’t know how it gets better than this.” We’ve listened to “our” song since she was small, rolling down the windows as the air slapped our faces, our voices harmonizing with the tunes. My girl has turned into everything I prayed she would be and more. I am beyond thankful.
“Long live the walls we crashed through.“Long Live”
I had the time of my life, with you.”
“Next chapter.” It’s going to be even better. There is too much world for me to hold her back. But I have to admit — “Saying goodbye is death by a thousand cuts.” As a lover of words myself, Taylor’s pension for lyrics is a beautiful blessing when I don’t want to write reality.
“This is a big world, that was a small town.“White Horse”
There in my rear view mirror disappearing now.”
Sweetest daughter, “I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you.” We slayed quite a few from the front seats of my Chevy Impala. We cried and solved all of the world’s problems, and you always left dirty footprints on the dash. I know I always complained about it – but I’m pretty sure I will miss those footprints in the days to come.
“So don’t you worry your pretty, little mind.“Ours”
People throw rocks at things that shine.”
You make the “whole place shimmer”, sweet girl. I’m sure I will play “our” song on repeat over and over and over and over as I venture the drive without you. I feel like the lyrics of “Mastermind” – “I laid the groundwork and then, just like clockwork, the dominoes cascaded in a line.” Your dad and I have done everything we can to prepare you, grow you, arm you, and love you to these final moments. These last days.
“Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. You were bigger than the whole sky. You were more than just a short time.”“Bigger Than the Whole Sky”
The perfect ending to this “Oh, Mom”, diatribe would be a gift of Taylor tickets – which I don’t have, and I’m sorry. But the “best day with you” isn’t about the concert or the coffee or the Chipotle (just some of our favorite things). It’s just about being with you. Which is the best gift you’ve given me these last 18 years.
“There’s a fire inside of you that can’t help but shine through.”“Invisible”
I can’t imagine what is coming for you – “And you just might find who you’re supposed to be.” We haven’t sung our last song. There is so much more. It’s a good thing. “Look what you made me do!” You made me a mom. And no matter how painful this stage is, “We had this big, wide city all to ourselves.” I am beyond proud. Beyond thankful. Beyond full of love. There are NOT ENOUGH TAYLOR LYRICS TO SAY WHAT I FEEL.
“My mama’s in the kitchen, worrying about me.”“Christmases”
So, “breathe in, breathe through, breathe deep, breathe out.” I’m going to give myself the same advice and choose to see the beauty in all the is to come. I can’t promise there won’t be tears. There absolutely will be. And this mama will always love you. “Forever and always.”
But before I sign off, before the school year ends, here’s “our” song just one more time.
I’m five years old, it’s getting cold, I’ve got my big coat on
I hear your laugh and look up smiling at you, I run and run
Past the pumpkin patch and the tractor rides
Look now, the sky is gold
I hug your legs and fall asleep on the way home
I don’t know why all the trees change in the fall
But I know you’re not scared of anything at all
Don’t know if Snow White’s house is near or far away
But I know I had the best day with you today
I’m thirteen now
And don’t know how my friends could be so mean
I come home crying and you hold me tight and grab the keys
And we drive and drive until we found a town far enough away
And we talk and window shop ’til I’ve forgotten all their names
I don’t know who I’m going to talk to now at school
But I know I’m laughing on the car ride home with you
Don’t know how long it’s going to take to feel okay
But I know I had the best day with you today
I have an excellent father, his strength is making me stronger
God smiles on my little brother, inside and out
He’s better than I am
I grew up in a pretty house and I had space to run
And I had the best days with you
There is a video I found from back when I was three
You set up a paint set in the kitchen and you’re talking to me
It’s the age of princesses and pirate ships and the seven dwarfs
And Daddy’s smart
And you’re the prettiest lady in the whole wide world
And now I know why all the trees change in the fall
I know you were on my side even when I was wrong
And I love you for giving me your eyes
For staying back and watching me shine
And I didn’t know if you knew, so I’m taking this chance to say
That I had the best day with you today
“I’ve had the best days with you.”Love, Mom