She needs wide open spaces

Susan rolled back into our lives nearly seven years ago.

Lafayette was supposed to be a four-year college stop.

We’ve known Susan, our longtime baby sitter-who-basically-became-a-family-member, for more than a dozen years. She was a middle-schooler in El Paso, Texas, when we first met. Now she’s 25 and off to change the world.

After she graduated from UL, she was fortunate to get a job that has allowed her to see much of the country. However, until now, she has kept Lafayette as her home base. While she’s been traveling, we’ve missed her as a part of our daily lives. But she’s flitted in and out of town often enough that the place she occupied in our world for so long stayed warm.

Recently, she got a promotion – which meant that the time had come for her to relocate permanently.

And so, on Thursday afternoon, I packed all of her remaining earthly belongings into her trusty car (minus 164 pink and green plastic hangers she gave to my daughters, the 27 pairs of flip-flops she donated to Goodwill and the twin mattress set she hopes to sell for $50 to a friend of a friend who lives near campus).

I love to pack too much stuff in too-small places, so I was perfect for the job of implementing the jigsaw puzzle-it-will-only-fit-one-way-style packing method to fit the nine duffle bags, recently framed college diploma, laundry hamper, box of important papers, 17 pairs of dress shoes and 14 photo albums documenting every college life phase.

With every packed-to-the-brim bag that I stuffed in that little car, a Dixie Chicks song was running through my mind. It’s the anthem that resonates for any 20-something girl who’s ever left home or a place where she’s put down roots.

Who’s never left home, who’s never struck out?

To find a dream and a life of their own

A place in the clouds, a foundation of stone.

Many precede and many will follow

A young girl’s dreams no longer hollow …

Once I was done with what I considered to be an accomplished packing job, two of Susan’s Lafayette friends walked around her car. I wasn’t sure at first if they were marveling at the sheer volume of stuff or at the prospects of what awaited her on the road ahead.

One of her friends said, “I couldn’t do it.”

“What?” I asked. “You couldn’t do what?”

“Get in my car and leave Lafayette,” he said. “After college, I moved to New Orleans for a few months and that was enough.”

I understood where he was coming from, and I knew he spoke the truth.

But I also knew that the adventure Susan was embarking on came as naturally to her as staying did to her friend. And I knew she was ready – even though the rest of us will miss her mightily. Early Friday morning, she headed off to Washington, D.C., to her new job in the city.

She needs wide open spaces.

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