They said we’d know by December 17th or 18th. They said the letter would come by mail. U.S. mail. In the mailbox.

December 17th came and went. No letter.

December 18th came and went. No letter.

And so I was awake in the wee hours of the 19th, not realizing at first that it was the day, the day the letter would arrive, that had me awake, feeling anxious.

Please, I prayed, let it say yes. Let it say she’s been selected.RYE

Please, I prayed, let it say no. Let it say that she won’t be going away, that she won’t be leaving me.

How could I want it to say anything but yes? This is what my daughter wants. This is her dream. To be chosen as a Rotary Youth Exchange student for her junior year in high school. What an incredible opportunity. Why would I want the letter to say anything but yes?

How could I want it to say anything but no? This is my baby. My friend. My roommate. My daily joy. How could I send her away for ten months?

But December 19th came and went. No letter.

That left the 20th. Friday the 20th. Surely they wouldn’t make us wonder all through the weekend. Yes, the 20th had toΒ  be the day.

But the 20th was problematic. Amy was leaving school early with her swim team for an out-of-town two-day swim meet. She wouldn’t be coming home on the 20th, wouldn’t be home until late afternoon the following day.

“What if the letter comes, Amy? What should I do?”

“What do you mean, what should you do?”

“Should I open it?” How could I not?

“No! Wait for me!” Of course. Of course, I knew I should wait for her. It was her letter. It would be addressed to her. But how could I wait?

And then, there it was. The letter in the mailbox.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI brought it inside. It was well sealed. I held it up to the light. No luck. I texted Amy. Your letter came.

I wasn’t expecting a return text right away. She was at a swim meet, after all. But, she responded within seconds.


My older daughter was there, home, on the couch. “She wants me to open it!” I told her.

“Well, do it, Mom. What are you waiting for?”

“I don’t know.” Yes, I did. “I guess it seems like she should be here.”

“She said open it, didn’t she?”

“Okay.” I slipped one finger under the flap on the back and lifted it carefully, a few millimeters at a time.

“Mom, hurry up! Just tear it open!”

“I can’t.” I sped up a little though until the flap was entirely unsealed and the letter was visible.

I removed the letter from the envelope and held it to my chest.


“It’s too exciting. I’m scared. I’ve never been this scared to open anything before.”

I unfolded the top third and scanned for those crucial first few words. There they were. It is with great pleasure…

Relief. Relief, relief, relief. Relief that my daughter won’t experience the disappointment of not being selected.

I read those five words aloud then, and, once again, put the letter to my heart.

“Come on, mom! Where’s she going?”

It would be in the next paragraph. I folded the bottom third down and there, in capital letters, wasOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

FRANCE. Her original choice, the country she wanted to go to in the first place, when she started this process two months ago, back when she thought she could choose a country and they’d say okay and that was all there would be to it.

“FRANCE!” I told her sister. Her sister who will be off to college next year. Her sister who knows, as I do, that the time for them to separate after all these years of growing up together will be much easier if they leave home at the same time.

And then I cried. I laughed and I cried. I went into the kitchen and came back to the living room. I sat down. I stood back up.

“I don’t know what to do,” I said.

“Mom, let her go. She’ll be fine.” My daughter looked at me as if I was crazy, as if surely I had to have agreed to letting her go long before this point, this moment of getting the letter.

“No,” I explained. “I mean right now. I don’t know what to do with myself.” I was too thrilled–too needing to talk to Amy, to hug her, to celebrate with her–to do anything else.


The months of preparation begin now.


21 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Matthew Winnett
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 21:23:24

    Hi Randee, Your blog post is a marvellous read especially given that you’ve taken to time to blog about the beginnings of Amy’s Rotary Youth Exchange journey so soon after she received the notification from her Rotary District. Congratulations to Amy!

    It was interesting to note that Rotary Youth Exchange processes can be quite varied from District to District and Country. My daughter received her notification that she had been accepted into the program on the same day that she attended the panel interviews via a phone call, which was then followed up via an email (and then many emails thereafter). She has not received a single piece of correspondence via the mail. In fact, the only items she is awaiting to arrive in the mail are her ‘Contact Cards’.

    We’re now counting down the days (28 and counting) until her departure.


    • randee
      Dec 20, 2013 @ 21:40:36

      I believe that the reason we had to wait nearly two weeks to find out was because this year, unlike past years, there were so many more applicants than available spots. And I’m not sure what’s up with the “snail mail” notification. It is also required that the students write a real letter, not an email, to accept.

      I know you are getting close to sending your daughter off. How are you feeling?

      It will be fun to keep in touch and see how our children (and we, as well) do with this experience.


      • Matthew Winnett
        Dec 20, 2013 @ 23:44:29

        Yes, I noted that your Rotary District had an extraordinary number of applicants; it goes to show how popular and well regarded the Rotary Youth Exchange program is.

        I wonder if some Rotarians in your District have a vested interest in keeping the US Postal Service afloat! Not only does our Rotary District primarily communicate via email they also have a (private) Facebook Group where the Chairman and the Outbounders can communicate with each other.

        I’m feeling very proud and excited for my daughter and just a little bit apprehensive, simply as I will miss her. This program is the opportunity of a lifetime and I wish to give her every opportunity to experience all that the Rotary Youth Exchange program offers.

  2. farfetchedfriends
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 21:37:31

    It IS hard to let them go! My daughter’s best friend had cancer a few years back (yes, when they were 11) and her make-a-wish is to go to Costa Rica and for my daughter to go with her. I had to say, “Yes” and now we’re waiting for make-a-wish to finalize.

    If I can let mine go somewhere with a passport, then so can you. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity!



  3. Deborah
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 22:06:24

    Congratulations to all of you! Amy must be so excited. I’ll tell you it never really gets easier. My mother had a hard time when I went to Asia the first time, and I was in my 40s. πŸ˜‰
    Seriously, I know it’s not just about her going abroad. It’s going from a house with two lively girls to an empty nest. But this world of technology makes the transition so much easier. We have a joke in our family now that during my first year in Taiwan, my mother and I talked more (via Skype) than we did when I was in the States.
    I’ll be here for you in the limited online way. Feel free to let me know anytime you want to talk. I live the opposite side of the situation now, wanting so much to be home in the US much more than I can be. Missing the holidays, only seeing my grandson each summer, as he transforms whole years at a time.
    The moments help. And they become more and more precious all the time.


    • randee
      Dec 21, 2013 @ 05:01:07

      Can you elaborate on “the moment helps?” It sounds like a wonderful piece of advice; I want to make sure I am understanding it correctly.

      Deborah, I have had to say good-bye to both of my girls before, a few years ago, and do the empty nest thing much earlier than I was ever expecting to. After my divorce they wanted to live with their dad for a while, to give him a chance. And he had moved across the state to Denver. I had to let them go at ages 11 and 12. I know there was a reason for it, that God had a reason. I’ll never know what it was, but perhaps it had to happen so that I would be willing and able to let her go for this opportunity.

      You are an amazing friend and I appreciate you. πŸ™‚


  4. theclocktowersunset
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 23:18:57

    Congratulations are in order! What exciting news, she’s gonna have so much fun. Me, myself have only crossed out of my timezone once and it wasn’t far enough to even think about worrying about clocks. I bet she was ready to swim all the way there when you told her.


    • randee
      Dec 21, 2013 @ 05:07:48

      Probably! Can’t wait for her to get home later today to see what she’s thinking and all that. Myself, I have only been to Mexico and Canada.


  5. Lynette d'Arty-Cross
    Dec 21, 2013 @ 05:45:00

    Congratulations! It’s hard but liberating at the same time. πŸ™‚


  6. Anonymous
    Dec 21, 2013 @ 08:35:50

    Today your blog made me cry. Your emotions would have been my emotions given the same circumstances. It must be genetic. Love is not so mysterious.


  7. Billybuc
    Dec 21, 2013 @ 09:29:08

    So very exciting….and so very unnerving for a parent. I understand this post very well. πŸ™‚ Good luck Mom!


  8. blogmundson101
    Dec 21, 2013 @ 09:48:13

    It is a great experience! I will never forget the text I got from my son. One word: Italy.


    • randee
      Dec 21, 2013 @ 10:27:59

      Yep. I would have gotten that exactly – FRANCE – if Amy had come home after school before I got home from work, if she hadn’t been out of town at a swim meet. πŸ™‚


  9. Trackback: 9:16 a.m. on 12/21/13 | A String of Pearls
  10. Trackback: What’s Coo5king? | A String of Pearls

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