A large box.
That’s what I brought with me when I first moved to college. The box held linens, desk supplies, a dictionary and a copy of “On Writing Well,” some personal care products, a few hangers and a poster. The backpack held my wallet. The suitcase held my clothes.
The typewriter held my future.
The college I attended was conveniently located on the way to a business meeting my mother had on dorm move-in day. That morning, mom and I drove to my new college and brought my stuff up two flights of stairs in one trip. Mom helped me make my bed and, within 30 minutes of arrival, she gave me a hug and left.
Through the years I’ve had mixed emotions about that last part. At the time, I was so self-focused that her quick retreat didn’t hit me emotionally, but I’ve wondered if it was a little too quick and often described it with hyperbole: “Mom threw me out of the car and sped off. I think I heard a maniacal laugh over the squealing of tires.”
But, honestly? It was a perfect parting for me. It was like she knew me!
Fast forward (many) years to January 2018.
Several crates, storage bins and boxes.
Three black garbage bags of clothes.
A reading chair.
This was my third, first-time-to-college move-in day. My own, my son’s last August and now our firstborn, Bekah, was heading off to sleep-away college. After two years as a commuter student, and a gap semester of travel and work, it was her time.
When I went off to college, I was ill-equipped for dorm life. With each trip home, I transported more items — after four years, my stuff barely fit in the back of a full-sized van.
Luke’s dorm stuff had filled the back of an SUV and Bekah’s took up as much space. Same car, similar stuff, same reason for leaving — very different people. Different experiences. Our home dynamic changed when Luke left; it was going to change again, but differently, when she did.
Not better, or worse — just different.
Different, too, were my emotions. Not better or worse, just differently complicated. With Luke I was happier for him than sad for me, but with her I kept misting up over a new blend of pride, gratitude and omgnoreally?!
I hid my mist from her. I know her: if she saw me a mess, she would be a mess and that would be a mess.
But it was time.
She was ready.
I had no choice but to be ready.
Moving into a dorm in January is far different than moving into one in August. Hot sun versus nostril-sticking cold snow; lots of people versus no one around; a roommate also moving in versus one living in the room for a semester but not there when Bekah moved in.
Luke let us haul stuff for him, but his perfect parting time was right afterward. Bekah let me make her bed, fill her drawers, and offer organizing suggestions. But she ran out of time before I ran out of things to do.
“Can you help me find the room where orientation is?”
She was a few steps ahead of me when we found it and she turned the corner ... but I stopped.
She popped back into the hall and gave me a quizzical look.
“There’s no reason for me to go in there.” I told her.
The hug was quick but tight, the forehead-kiss fast, the whispered, “I’m so proud of you! I love you!” surprisingly tearless.
It was like I knew her, and she knew me.
She smiled, turned, and walked into her future.
Susan Vollenweider lives in the Northland. To listen to the women’s history or historical media recap podcasts that she co-hosts or to read more of her writing visit www.thehistorychicks, The Recappery Podcast or www.susanvollenweider.com