Monday, May 21, 2012
As we expected, that large white envelope turned up in our mailbox last Friday. My daughter received her mission call. She was not home when it arrived; our high-school-aged son called her with the news it had arrived. It lay unopened for a number of hours until she finally got home from work. She dialed up her sister who lives in Pennsylvania and then we all sat around the family room together as she opened it.
She read it out loud.
First surprise: a domestic city two states away. Not going to some far-off exotic location. In fact, she and her mother and sister are going to the same city for the weekend this week (a trip planned weeks ago).
Second surprise: she reports to the MTC in about five weeks. Not much time to get ready, nor to worry about changing her mind, nor to do much of anything but focus on the task at hand. Of course, she had just started a new job the day before the call arrived, thinking she might work the whole summer. Oh well.
Third surprise (buried in the last sentence of that first paragraph): she’ll be speaking Mandarin Chinese. She speaks some Mandarin already as she took two years in high school in Taiwan, and then took a couple of semesters at BYU. She worries she does not know any “church” Mandarin. We assure her the MTC will help her with that.
She commits us all to a Facebook blackout until she’s had a chance to call a few friends personally, and in the wee hours of the morning she finally posts about her call, and we are free to discuss it with friends and family by the time we get up. Over the next few days there are calls to extended family, congratulations to her (and, oddly, to her parents!), and even an email from her mother’s aunt who served with her husband in the same mission a few years ago; she provides some of the most interesting and helpful tidbits about what it will be like for our daughter
Our daughter is pleasantly surprised at the positive response from her non-LDS friends on Facebook, folks she knew in high school who also seem genuinely supportive and impressed that she is going to serve.
Last night we sat around the kitchen table working on the master list of Things To Be Done before she leaves – from contacting the missionary travel department to shopping to sorting out luggage to setting a date for her first visit to the temple (Interview #1 completed yesterday afternoon). And it sinks in to me: she’s really going.
One of our older sons is visiting from the Pacific Northwest. He congratulates us that finally one of our children is serving. He knows that this is important to us – and to our daughter -- and he seems pleased that our daughter is comfortable and happy to be doing something he did not feel he could do. I appreciate his respect for us and our feelings just as I honor his choice to follow his own path.
I reflect on my own call. I opened it at the mailbox on the summer afternoon it arrived as my girlfriend (now my wife) stood beside me. I skimmed the letter so quickly that I had to read it two or three times before I finally saw where I was going. And I only had three weeks to report to the LTM. No time for second thoughts for me, either. I remember my excitement, my confidence that everything would be ok. I was too young and too inexperienced to be nervous.
My daughter is older than I was then. I think she’s more mature than I was. And I think she knows enough to be a little nervous. But she’s pretty excited, too. And so am I.