Tomorrow marks the 13th time I’ll send one of my kids off for another year at college. Thirteenth!! Not that I have 13 children, of course, but 3 kids times 4 years each plus an extra year just for luck (or to finish up, as it were). It’s gotten easier as the years have gone by, but it still always makes me feel a bit melancholy. As much as I don’t think I could live through those “little kids at home” years again, I’m looking with sad eyes at the backpack-laden little ones getting off the school bus in my neighborhood.
For all the first time sender-off-ers out there, my heart goes out to you. Thankfully I’ve never known the actual pain of someone stabbing me in the heart with a sharp object, but that’s a bit of what it felt like the first time I went through this process. Somehow or other my husband always seemed to be away on business when it was time to bring a kid to college, so I have done it alone a bunch of times. Most of the times, actually. It’s probably a good thing, though, because I turn into a lunatic as soon as I start driving away, my college kid waving at me in my rearview mirror. It’s probably best I’m alone.
Leaving Maria up in Savannah at SCAD about did me in. That was my first time doing this. We had a nice last couple of days together, getting her moved into her dorm. We stayed at a lovely local hotel, had dinner at “The Chart House” overlooking River Street.
Oh, did I mention that her roommate was a very scary girl? She had a flickering light above her bed that said “Bate’s Motel.” (This did not help to calm my already frazzled nerves.) But Maria was so determined that it was going to work out OK. I tried to believe it too, as I looked at the finished product before me: One dorm room – half with Bible verses on the wall in pretty calligraphy, the other half with horror movie posters and the aforementioned neon light. Half with pastel colors and flowers, the other half black. Half of the clothes hanging in the closet colorful and happy, the other side, again, black. All black. Not even a hint of steel gray or navy blue. You couldn’t find two more opposite personalities.
The anticipation of the “good-bye” is the worst thing ever. You don’t want it to happen, but you know it’s going to and that it’s going to hurt and you just want it over with. I can still see her standing in the parking lot as I drove away. I bust. a. GUT. trying not to cry in front of her. I think I managed pretty well, too, as did she. But as I drove back down to South Florida that day, I bawled my eyes out. I’d regain my composure, only to lose it again shortly thereafter. Like when I got off of highway 16 and on to 95. Bawled. Then I calmed down, but then got out of range for the Savannah radio station, so I again, bawled. Next, crossing over the border into Florida, bawled. Each step marked being farther away from my daughter. I had to stop at least three times at gas stations or rest areas to rinse off my contact lens because they got so cloudy from my tears.
I didn’t wear eye makeup for two weeks. I knew I’d just cry it off anyway.
Maria grew to love her college. And that made me happy. And then it was time to do it all again with Sean. And a few years later, Teddy. The first time bringing each of them up to Florida State was also a tear-filled event. Wasn’t I just taking them to preschool? How did this happen so fast?
I can’t speak for Dads, but Moms, I’m telling you to go ahead and cry. Cry in the aisles of Publix. Cry on your way to the mailbox. Sob on your neighbor’s shoulder. Wail to the guy making your sandwich at Subway. Let it all out. I promise it will get better and that “heart hurt” will soften after a while. College is such an amazing time for them. The last hurrah before entering the real, adult world, never to go back.
Wish me luck! Tomorrow is my last time down this road. Lucky 13. I may need to only stop once to clear off my contact lenses!