In case you are driving down the street today and hear many horns honking, no, it is not a massive wedding, it is Abi 2013. It is the time of year when graduating German high school students are finished with school, having worked so hard for so many years towards their diploma or Abitur as it is called in German. Today, I happened to end up in the middle of a long string of Abi 2013 cars, full of excited kids honking and waving. At first, I felt terrible as if I were intruding on their hard earned Abi parade but when I gave them the thumbs up, they all waved and smiled as if to say it was Ok.
At about that time, the tears started streaking down my cheeks, as they do now. Ten years ago when I first heard the honking horns, I thought it was a huge wedding with many celebrants following in their cars. When I found out it was the Abi kids, I was surprised because it was so early in the school year and they had not yet taken final exams. I learned that it was German tradition to celebrate the last day of school in this way, and a more formal Abi Ball comes later at official graduation time. Beyond that, I didn’t think much about it, they were all someone else’s kids.
Next year, that kid will be my kid. She will be in someone’s car with all her friends, honking the horn and celebrating the end of her high school years. I don’t know that I am ready for that. We raise our kids to let them go and spread their wings and create a life full of meaning and happiness. But I can’t help but thinking how empty the house will be without her; her laughter, her sunshine, her moods, her stack of books, and her playing her guitar and singing into the night. I am not ready to let her go.
As ex-pats, many of us have to cope with the fact that our kids will not go to University an hour or two away, but a plane flight or two away. This makes it all the harder. The Abi 2013 kids today made me realize just how much I need to treasure every single day my daughter is in our home, in the same country and in my presence. Abi 2014 will come way too fast. I will miss her more than she will ever know.