I have written and re-written this essay a half dozen times. Kate finished her first year of college in May. Now that she's firmly invested in her second year, I almost didn't write it. But I can still remember the day we moved her in like it was yesterday.... packing up the car the night before, the house in shambles, getting on the road at dawn, stopping at McDonalds for pancakes, her sister crying not so silently as we waited in the car, all of us crying at different times during the drive into Boston. And then in a blur of unpacking, it was over. We rode home in silence wiping away the last of our tears.
During the first couple of months, I was in denial. Having my children sleep under the same roof makes me happy. I would cry at odd times during the day. David and I would stare at one another, speechless. We've always been a close family, choosing to do things as a group versus going off on our own. Gone were the nightly rounds of good-nights whispered between the girls' rooms, the laughter and teasing sisters revel in, the four place settings at the dinner table. Days were quiet and the nights were sometimes deafeningly silent.
I know I am not the first parent to have gone through this. I know I should be happy that I have done at least part of my job—I've prepared her to head out into the world and stand on her own. I know I should be excited that she will get to experience all of the great and wonderful things college will teach her. I know this is what's supposed to happen. But knowing it doesn't keep it from hurting.
My girls are my best friends and now I was letting one of them go. Kate and I run hot and cold. She can make me laugh on a dime, help guide me through a mini-crisis with her level-headed advice, and talk and talk and talk, which I sometimes desperately need just to get out of my own head. Amanda and I are lukewarm. We get each other and often agree on just about everything. She has a calming spirit that soothes me. We're introverted extroverts—we're quiet, and then sometimes loud and obnoxious. These girls balance my world.
I am grateful that she is only 80 miles away and not 800. We can get her home in an hour and a half and she takes advantage of it every chance she gets, especially this time of year. She loves Christmas and she misses the snow, the woods, her room, the decorations, and of course her dogs! And I guess us, too. She was just home over Thanksgiving break and it's during these times that I feel at peace once again.
Just as I was settling in to this new normal, rumors started to circulate (as they usually do) that upperclassmen wouldn't have housing for next year. One of her friends started apartment hunting and asked Kate if she was interested in sharing. The first time I heard of this my heart sank. I was just getting used to her being away—housed in a nice security-protected dorm on campus. I couldn't talk about it. I didn't even want to address it. I passed this latest challenge on to her father. He tends to be more rational than emotional, while I tend to lead with my emotions in situations like this. He played go-between for a while; I silently crunched the numbers. After viewing one disappointing apartment after another proved that we wouldn't have to deal with this until next year, a spot opened up in a beautiful (safe) building just down the street. Her friend would sign the lease December 1st. We gave Kate the okay that she could move in in January.
We've dropped her off at her dorm room for the last time. We plan to start moving her belongings into her apartment in mid-December, then finish up in January before she heads back to school again. The decorating plan is in full swing and I still need to find a desk—all in the midst of holiday shopping and Amanda's college application process.
Yes, I get to do this all over again next year times two. And I'll do my best to survive this, too.