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Umm. I believe the sky is falling.

Grace came home a week ago with the idea that she should spend a semester abroad her junior year of high school. She thinks New Zealand sounds good, since they speak English and thus her grades would suffer less than if she had to speak a foreign language. "That sounds great," I said, summoning acting skills I haven't used since I played Henny Penny in the high school production of Story Theater. Although this time, the sky was actually falling and I had to pretend everything was cool.

Honestly, I told myself, there is no cause for concern. We can't possibly afford to send a child abroad. Okay, we are sending Sam abroad, if you can call it that (he's going canoeing in Canada), but financially, a semester in a real foreign country isn't an option.

"That's okay," Grace said. "I'm going to look into getting a scholarship."

Godspeed, I told her. You look into that. What are the odds? And then this morning, I woke up with that icky feeling in my stomach. Grace was away for the weekend. I knew she was perfectly safe. But still. Her absence made me realize how much I hate the idea of her going to New Zealand for four months. A week, maybe three weeks, but not New Zealand.

I got up and googled it. It's a 30-hour plane trip.

And then this evening, Sam started talking about maybe going to college in California. When Keith and I first got together and Sam and Grace were really little, Keith and I had this fantasy about our early retirement, which would start a few years before Sam and Grace were in college. We'd buy an Airstream and move to California, so the kids could go to college there as residents (which is cheaper). We'd drive around California, returning to their respective campuses occasionally so they could do a couple loads of laundry in our mini-washer and dryer. (In my mind's eye, they are stacked, possibly fire-engine red although I'm not married to the color.) Like a lot of fantasies, it never materialized. We left out some real-life concerns, such as making enough money to retire early, and the difficulty of uprooting children who have attended the same school district all of their lives. But now Sam is thinking about going without us! We'll be Left Behind in midwestern suburbia, with windows that need replacing and outdated countertops, the chipped linoleum.

When I was a sophomore in college, I dropped out to go live on the North Shore of Oahu. That lasted the better part of a year. (And it truly was the better part of the year. In my Minneapolis apartment the next winter, the toilet water often froze due to poor insulation.) A couple years later I moved to New York. Eventually I returned to my home state, and later, my hometown.

Suddenly, I'm looking around the Twin Cities and thinking, "Why didn't I finish college here? I could have found a job at the local public radio station, or the historical society. It would have been a nice, safe life. There was no reason to break my parents' heart by moving away." I know I'm projecting. My parents never acted brokenhearted, although I can't imagine they were happy about my Hawaiian year. My mom and dad accepted my moves as if they were powerless to stop them, which of course they were.
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