It’s been five days, nine hours, 12 minutes and 34…35…36…seconds… 39…40… since my daughter left for college.
I cannot believe she’s going to college. I mean, wasn’t it just a couple years ago she was playing dress-up and thinking boys were icky? Even though she still plays dress-up, she no longer thinks boys are icky, despite my best efforts to convince her.
Regardless, the morning of her departure dawned as gray as my roots. She’d had all her stuff packed for days but felt the need to check and recheck to be sure she had the essentials.
“Let’s see… Clothes, check; makeup, check; curling iron, check; blow dryer, check; straightener, check…
“May I remind you, you’re going to college to expand your mind, not win a beauty contest,” I said in my underutilized mother-knows-best tone.
She glared at me for a moment, and then continued. “Mousse, check; hair spray, check; anti-frizz stuff…ohmigod, where’s my anti-frizz stuff… Oh there it is. Whew! That was close. OK, where was I? Oh yeah, nail polish, check; nail polish remover, check.”
While she droned on I looked over at the boxes and crates packed neatly against the wall. Is this what it’s come to? I thought. Am I actually allowing my first-born to head out into the cold, cruel world with a box of styling products and a few articles of clothing? What kind of mother does this?!
I suddenly had a thought. “You know, you don’t have to go,” I said cheerfully. “We could home-school. Yeah! We could home-school or, or… ‘home-college’ if you will. Yeah, this could be good!” I said and clapped my hands.
“Mom,” said my daughter clasping my hands in hers and looking me square in the eye. “Mommy… You need to get a grip. I’m in pre-law.”
“Well, I know but, but… I’m sure there are books for that. We could learn together. C’mon. It’ll be fun!”
“Mom. We can’t do that,” she said in a slow, clear monotone. “That’s what colleges are for and I – have – to – go – to – college.”
“Oh… Well of course you do! I was just being silly! You know me, ‘silly Mom,’ that’s me!” I said with a shrill giggle. The time was drawing near, and I knew I was apt to lose it very soon.
We got her little car packed up and I steeled myself for a poignant goodbye.
“OK. Gotta go.” She gave me a quick hug and headed for the open door of her vehicle.
“Is that it?!” I said, arms still open. “That’s all you’re gonna say to your mother? Your mother who scotch-taped a pretty bow to your head when you were a hairless little baby? Your mother who nursed you through chickenpox, the flu, bronchitis and mono? Your mother who sat up with you through break-ups and break-downs? Your mother who taught you to drive and almost suffered whiplash while you practiced going from zero to first gear? Your mother who took you to Girl Scouts, dance class and Rolling Stones concerts?”
She stopped and turned around, her big brown eyes were wavy with tears. We came together in a crush, pretty much knocking the wind out of each other. The tears flowed freely and, in my mind, my 18-year-old college student reverted back to the 5-year-old kindergartner clutching me at the yawning door of the big, yellow school bus.
I don’t know how long we were there before she left. I guess it had to be a while for me because my sister came over to escort me into the house after a concerned neighbor reported that I’d been “standing in the same spot since this morning for no particular reason.” Nosy neighbors, anyway.
Update: Phone message, second day at college. “Hi Mom. Things’re good. Me and Amanda (Amanda who?) are going to this great mall today. Love you bye!”
After hearing that, I wasn’t sure if I should be concerned or relieved. I chose the latter, and then I had a horrifying thought. I get to go through this two more times. If giving birth three times isn’t hard enough, then there’s the whole ‘rearing the child’ thing.
I’m sure it gets easier… It does, doesn’t it?