Note- I thought it appropriate to open the blog with this piece I wrote a few weeks ago when my oldest son headed out for his first semester of college. In this season of change and transition that so many of us Mom’s are going through, I found it soothing and empowering to put feelings to paper and let it be a fresh, new start- college for him, back to writing for me. Three weeks have passed and Flynn has settled in nicely, and so have I.
August 15th, 2019
You shoved off this morning with a dirty car loaded to the gills, University of Utah mug full of black coffee in hand, a horrible croupy cough and one huge box of Kleenex. It’s not enough to say THIS momentous goodbye as I send you off into the wild, but I have to let you go with THAT cough? Really? THAT notorious, crackly, hoarsy, painful bark you used to get when you were a baby and we would have to stay up all night in the steamy bathroom kind of cough? Really?
When it’s 90 degrees? The day you’re leaving for college?
Can’t I just rub some Vicks on the bottom of your feet one last time? Can I please let your head rest on my shoulder in the rocking chair until the wee hours of the morning because that damn bark WILL subside ever so slightly if your neck is cupped at just the right angle that only I know about? Do you think your new roommate would appreciate me moving the old blue Pottery Barn glider into your tiny dorm room just in case you don’t kick this nasty crud by the weekend? Do you think it would bug him if I dropped one more nasty smelling (and I’m sure now deemed completely toxic) mentholatum swab thing into your night light to emit soothing vapors into the dank, musty boy dorm air? Probably. Damn him. It would probably do the trick. In fact, I know it would.
I wish I could soothe your cough, and wipe your nose and ease your nerves and tell you it’s all going to be okay. I know you were nervous, unsure, and not entirely ready to say goodbye when you embraced your younger brother and myself on the driveway this morning, then paused and lifted your sunglasses so we could see your eyes before you finally put the car in gear. Last night as we celebrated your 18th birthday, did you notice your littlest brother opted to eat inside “because he doesn’t like to eat with the bugs.” We live in California, for Christsake. What bugs?
Did you notice that while you packed your final piles into duffel bags in your room, he sat on the floor next door soaking up the last moments of your life upstairs together? When I walked into his room, he startled and said, “I’m not sad”, and quickly got up and started shuffling about, pretending to take a five minute Fortnite break (umm, we know there’s no such thing).
We are all sad, but we are all so excited for you. For what’s next, for what you can’t yet see. In spite of your love of adrenaline pumping sports, you were always that emotionally cautious, tenuous, suspicious kid that always needed that extra nudge, a gentle push, and quite often, that final kick to move forward. And so it continues today. At 18. And it may always be that way, it’s okay. Be cautious, be suspicious, feel your way before you jump, but do not be afraid.
Goodbyes are hard. Transitions can be even harder. The unknown can be downright terrifying. Letting go of the past and stepping, however cautiously and carefully into the future, can feel dizzying. It’s hard to imagine your life any other way than in the current blissful state of the freedom of that summer between high school and college- it is like the sweetest high, the peak of the plot, a state of suspended animation you never want to end. But it does and the clock ticks forward and the days on the calendar fall off in ever more rapid succession as that bittersweet moving date approaches.
I tried not to cry while you pulled out of the driveway, and headed down the hill slightly slower than usual. I heard you honk one last time as the sound of your engine faded into the trees. At that point I hugged your younger brother tighter than normal and sobbed. “It’s okay Mom”, he said into my ear muffled by his big bicep, “I cried yesterday, too. It’s okay.”
As we walked back into the house with Christian’s arm around my shoulder, I think we both felt as if YOU, that cautious, suspicious little guy with the huge eyes, had unknowingly just given us both a gentle nudge, a firm push, and finally, a swift kick into the next stage. I know we’re all going to be just fine.