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Good-bye to All This

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Sarina Gruver Moore teaches English at Calvin College. She’s going to finally get out of your hair now and let Jennifer Holberg take her rightful place again. Stay tuned.

The past few weeks my Facebook newsfeed has been filled with not only the ice-bucket challenges and first-day-of-school photos (oh, those kindergarten cuties!), but also, for the first time, with college-orientation photos and status updates from sobbing barely-holding-it-together parents. Yes. I’m now old enough that some of my friends are dropping off their kid-dults at Harvard, Biola, Belmont, and the like to major in philosophy and political science, graphic design and music performance. 


Beyond just the holyeverythingIamOLD feeling this inspires, I find that I’m getting kind of misty-eyed about this major life transition with my own children—you know, years and years and years from now.

Here’s a recurring scene around our house these days: 

Me: Oh, Henry! [opens arms for a hug] You know what?

Henry [barely refraining from rolling his eyes]: Yeah, MOM. I already KNOW what you’re going to SAY. [Can you hear through your screen the pre-teen insouciance?]

Me: What? What am I going to say?

Henry: You’re going to say [mincing “mom” voice] I can’t believe we have only six more years with you at home!

Please note that this scene ends with both his mock crying and his genuine return of my hug. It’s a mixed bag, parenthood. 

So I’m trying to find a word for this feeling—this sense that I’m already missing the life I’m living RIGHT NOW. I’m already missing my children before they’re grown and gone. I’m longing for what is happening at this very moment, because it is so good and so right and I know that it’s also so fleeting.

Is it nostalgia? A kind of nostalgia for the present rather than for the past? German-speaking friends have offered that this feeling may be a species of gemütlichkeit—that sense of coziness and comfort and all’s-right-with-the-world that accompanies a good book in front of a good fire, or a good meal with good friends. 

But this isn’t quite it, because there’s a layer of sadness in here somewhere. I know that all of this beauty and joy and ordinary loveliness ends at some point. *This* version of beauty and joy, at any rate. Wordsworth calls these “Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.”  But even Wordworth, wonderful man, doesn’t express exactly what I’m feeling because he’s lamenting that the “visionary gleam” has already fled: “Where is it now, the glory and the dream?” 

My friend Laura pointed out to me that my longing for the present is similar to Peter’s response to the Transfiguration. The shining face of Jesus. The bridge between heaven and earth. Let’s pitch our tents here forever.

Of course, Peter came down off of that mountain eventually. And so must we.

So good-bye summer. Good-bye blog. Good-bye sons and daughters. Good-bye to all this goodness.

Something else awaits us. Kýrie eléison. 













Jennifer L. Holberg

I’ve taught English at Calvin College since 1998–where I get to read books and talk about them for a living. What could be better? Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture (and yes, I realize that that is a very long subtitle). I also do various administrative things across campus. As an Army brat, I’ve never lived anywhere as long as I’ve now lived in Grand Rapids. I count myself rich in friends and family. I enjoy kayaking and hiking. I collect cookbooks (and also like to cook), listen to all kinds of music, and watch all manner of movies and tv shows. I love George Eliot, Jane Austen, Marilynne Robinson, Dante, E.M. Delafield, Tennyson, Hopkins, and Charlotte Bronte (among others). And I have a bumper sticker on my car that says: “I’d rather be reading Flannery O’Connor.” Which is true.

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