Richard RiouxPauline HartePatti RasmussenTim WhyteLeon Worden

Proud Mom watches daughter pursue her dreams

Pauline Harte · August 26, 1997

I really detest taking my daughter to the airport. It's not the snails-pace, bumper-to-bumper drive, or waiting in long, snaking lines, or trudging around aimlessly with over-stuffed luggage that gets to me. It's that last few minutes when my daughter walks up the boarding ramp, away from me. My teeth clench involuntarily, my heart races faster than Secretariat on his best day, and there's a lump in my throat the size of Montana.

But I must smile in spite of all this, and my smile must look sincere and enthusiastic even though I want to reach out and grab the backpack hanging on those tiny shoulders.

"And just where do you think you're going, young lady?" I want to bark loudly, as if she's five years old and inching precariously close to the ebbing tide at the beach.

And that's just it. As my seventeen-year-old daughter walked away from my husband and me, she really looked only five years old. She looked tiny, and frail, and helpless.

She looked like a child who should have her mommy with her. THIS mommy!

She turned around for one last wave. Her eyes were too shiny, and as I thanked God that my own smile was still in place when she turned back toward me, she rounded the corner on the ramp and was gone.

This time she's off to South Carolina and North Carolina to join a group that is rebuilding burned churches. A couple of weeks ago, she was off repairing the homes of Native Americans, with her youth group from Santa Clarita United Methodist Church. She was a roofer, and I joked about how she can build a house but can't clean her room.

I know she isn't frail and helpless. So why does she always look that way in those last few minutes as she walks up a boarding ramp? Last year she went to Ireland as a foreign exchange student, so I should be better at this good-bye thing than I am.

No, frail and helpless she isn't. She's been a lifeguard at Hurricane Harbor all summer. It is a grueling job in which only the strong survive. After 8½-hour workdays in the scorching heat and multiple rescues, she came home many times looking as if she had gone five rounds with Shamu.

But she really loves the job. It had been her dream to be a lifeguard at Hurricane Harbor.

And as I watched her walk away from me on her way to fulfilling another dream, I remembered the huge, shining smile on her face when she wore her new red and white lifeguard uniform for the first time. She "Oh, Mom"-ed me as I quickly snapped a roll of film in front of her friends, also Hurricane Harbor lifeguards.

And I remembered the very first time I saw her on March 3, 1980.

Every time she walks up a boarding ramp, her life flashes before my eyes. One day a Brownie, the next a lifeguard. It happens that fast.

When she came back from Ireland, she announced proudly, "If I could do that, I can do anything!"

And that's exactly what I say to myself every time I put on a frozen smile and watch her walk away from me on her way to another one of her dreams.

- 30 -



comments powered by Disqus