I originally had planned an entirely different post for this month – something about weird nonfiction titles – but reading Jannine’s blog on Tuesday got me thinking about my own experience with that first trip to drop a kid off at college. Suddenly I was feeling nostalgic, so I hope you don’t mind my indulging in a trip back to the fall of 2002.
My older son – one of those kids who soaked up knowledge effortlessly, and got the grades to prove it – was heading to his first year at George Washington University...a whole mile or so from the White House. He’d been accepted early decision shortly after 9/11, so half my head was full of possible terror attacks, and the other on all those normal fears parents have – will he fit in, will he do well in classes...how often will he be calling for money. :-)
Move-in day dawned with a downpour, and we were soaked by the time we crammed all his stuffed into my car. Smelling like wet dog, we buckled ourselves in, ready to battle our way south from Jersey to D.C. on the ever hospitable Interstate 95.
We’d made it to the Garden State Parkway (like five miles) when he turned to me and said, “Mom, I don’t want to go to college.” (Looking back, I’m amazed I didn’t wreck the car.) My response: “Tough. You’re going.”
I don’t remember much about the rest of the ride, but I have to tell you I was tempted to turn that car around and give in to his sentiments. But I knew it was probably fear of the unknown – certainly not a desire to stay home – and he’d regret it if I did. But the day was not without its challenges.
When we got to his dorm, it was pretty normal chaos with a gazillion other parents dropping kids and all their paraphernalia piled on the sidewalk while frenzied parents fought each other over the handful of carts. (I remember one girl whose “stuff” took up about the size of a city bus. At that moment, I was so thankful to have boys.)
The line eventually moved, inches at a time, until we made it inside the actual dorm building to discover that only one elevator was working. I was going to attempt walking until I realized he was on the 7th floor.
After a couple more hours of waiting and inching, waiting and inching – all of us smelling worse than wet dogs by then – my son’s “stuff” made it to his room, and it was time for me to go.
I think we were both too exhausted for a tearful goodbye, so after giving him a quick hug and extracting a promise to call every so often, I headed out into the city. I found my car, got in, started her up and turned onto a one-way street...in the wrong direction.
That’s when I pulled over to the curb, dropped my face in my hands and sobbed.
About ten minutes later, I pulled a U-turn and headed home.
When told him later about going the wrong way on the street, feeling lucky I hadn’t been ticketed, he said, “Mom, D.C. cops don’t care about traffic laws. They’re too busy watching for terrorists.” (Sigh.)
Now, 13 years later, I’m happy to report that all has worked out well. He got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from GW, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Penn State in Harrisburg (all but dissertation).
|First ceremony - for his college. We were in the
nosebleed section of the bleachers.
|University-wide ceremony on the National Mall.
This year he received a teaching award (something like ten awarded for the 6,000 or so grad student assistants at Penn State University). I'm not trying to brag....well, yeah, I am. I'm so proud of my "kid." :-)
I think we’re both so glad I didn’t give in to his request that day back in 2002 to turn around on the Parkway and head home.
Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the redeeming power of love. For more, please go to leahstjames.com.