Tomorrow, Ashley leaves for France for seven months.

I think I didn’t quite realize how much I have come to see Ashley as a part of my strange and quirky chosen family – at least, I didn’t realize it until it finally hit me (while washing the shampoo out of my hair on Saturday afternoon) that she’s going to be somewhere else for the next seven months.

Ash is one of those strange creatures who has the best blend of qualities: compassionate, funny, self-deprecating (but not to the point of self-pity), and strong. She isn’t afraid to make fun of herself, and when she makes fun of you, it never feels like you’re the butt of the joke.

I know she’s nervous about France – who wouldn’t be nervous about flying to a country whose native language is hard to master, and where you don’t exactly have a permanent residence yet? But she’s adaptable, and intelligent, and resourceful.

Last night, we said goodbye. It didn’t quite feel as climactic – and maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but seven months feels like a long time to me, especially when there’s an ocean in the middle. But it really felt like saying, “I’ll see you next week.” Which is kind of nice.

Bon voyage, ma petite boule de soleil.

(thanks, Ash, for making these pics so readily available for the stealing.)