Sunday night and my 15 year old daughter Laura is packing for Paris.
Her room's a mess - piles of clothes here, shoes under the bed, books scattered pretty much everywhere. Charles Aznavour and French rapper Sniper alternate on her iPod. After a quick altercation with her mother over how big a suitcase she can bring - settled by Laura out-googling my wife and finding that Air France allows up to 50 pounds - I have been recruited to "make sure she packs and make sure you don't do it for her".
She'll be gone for a month - first visiting with my own mother, then in a two week course called "Paris through the eyes of its greatest minds". (Since when did college start at 15?!?!). I've always wanted my kids to speak French - they call me "Papa" - but despite a year of tutoring it wasn't until the dangling of a Parisian carotte that I got any traction with Laura. Now for the past month I have had to listen to daily reproaches that I wasn't speaking French to her enough.
I'm happy for her of course. Seeing Paris, for the first time, at 15. (Well, technically she first saw it at 2 but I doubt that even she remembers). She who is already well on that road that leads from girlhood to womanhood. Who over the last two years morphed from a Harry Potter obsessed semi grungee into a bona fide, Noam Chomsky reading, short skirted coquette. She is SO ready for Paris.
I wonder though, if I am. Ready for her to go to Paris; and to all the places she will go afterwards. This is the first step, watching her pack that bag, sway to that music, the emotions flitting across her face as she thinks those thoughts that she will no longer always share with me.
I know she has to go; after all, I went to Paris too once. Tomorrow I will take her to the airport, and watch her go through those doors beyond which I cannot go.
It's not so much the going. It's the knowing that from now on, when she comes back, it will only be for a little while.