Spring semester is over and our daughter is flying home from college. Being about 750 miles away, it never seemed practical to drive her to campus or pick her up, so we flew instead. For her first semester, we traveled with two suitcases each to manage all of her clothes and books, and piled into a large rental car to buy bulkier supplies and ferry them to campus. Since then, we’ve visited, but she has handled the move-in and move-out work on her own. Not because we wouldn’t help, but because she was resourceful and capable. This week she shipped some things she’ll need over the summer, and packed up other items for a storage facility near school. Neat and tidy.
I went to college 500 miles away from home. For my first semester, the entire family drove to campus to move me in with my stuff. It was exciting, and bittersweet. They helped me shop for linens, made up my new dorm room bed, met my roommate, saw the cafeteria, and then they were gone. I made lots of new friends, but after a while, homesickness crept in. I was too far away to go home on the weekends, so I made do with Sunday night phone calls from the dorm’s hall phone and looked forward to flying home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring break. Starting my sophomore year, I had a car at school. I packed up my ragged Ford Galaxie 500 with albums, plants, and everything else a dorm room needs, and barreled through the Smoky Mountains. I remember singing at the top of my lungs, whether I had radio reception or not.
During visits home from school, I began to notice a little friction. I was accustomed to coming and going on my own schedule, but my family still expected me to be home for meals, and share details about where I was going and with whom. From my current vantage point I understand that parents are often the last ones to notice their children have grown up, and are managing to make good choices and informed decisions on their own. And I also understand that empty-nesters develop their own routines that are altered when kids reappear.
We don’t have a fatted calf to slaughter, but we’ll celebrate. Dinner out, soaking in all her news, delighted to have her at home for a while.