Thursday, August 21, 2008

Emptying the nest

So we're headed down the highway toward my daughter's campus, the cars packed with what seems like everything she has ever owned. I have no idea how she is going to store all this in a tiny dorm room. To be sure she will ask us to bring some of it home. No, she won't want us around long enough to know what she might want taken home. We'll probably get her stuff to her room and trip over the last load as she says goodbye to us. On the radio is "her music" but she is starting to drift off to sleep on our long, tiring, 1 hour, 45 minute drive. She must be exhausted. I know she was up late packing even though I had told her to start early. I rest my hand on her leg and wake her. She apologizes for falling asleep, but I quickly tell her it's fine, to please rest, and ask if it is okay for my hand to stay there or if it is bothering her. She leaves it there. I can't even remember the last time she sat next to me long enough for me to put my hand on her leg. I am loving it! I'm quite proud of myself too, that I haven't had any crying jags today. Okay, I did cry last night when I was writing in a book I put in the Vera Bradley bag we are leaving with her as a surprise. Along with the book is some lotion, a first grade pencil like the one my daddy gave me when I went to college, and a wooden snake - a joke from way back when she was only 3 years old. I am hoping the bag will be found long after we're gone and it make her smile and realize how much we love her, how excited we are for what she is facing, and how much we will miss her and the days we have been blessed to have with her. We are SO blessed. So I am driving along and feeling pretty good. All of a sudden I notice the song on the radio, her music, is none other than the Colby Callait tune I have set as her ring tone. The tears start rolling down my cheeks - just softly, small tears, but I am having to hold back real crying. Then she grabs my hand - she wasn't sleeping or at least she awakened to hear the music, and she grabbed my hand. That did it - full blown crying now. I am still trying to make sure she doesn't see it, but I think it's too late. I assure her I am fine - just overcome with emotion. I think the remaining 45 miles were covered within the 4 minutes of that song. Before I knew it we were at her dorm. I barely got out of the car before the people there to help had both cars unloaded, all her stuff in the elevator, and my husband looked at me and said, "I'll move both cars. Go on up to her room."

Her roommate was there already. She had been worried about how they would get along for a while now - since they had differed on how to place the beds and if she acquiesced about bunking them, who would get the top, which she did NOT want. We got her bed the way she wanted and asked if she wanted us to put the sheets on it. "Oh yes, please," she replied. In fact she wanted us to help get the computer connected, take her to Target to get some things, hang clothes in the closet, the shower curtain on the rod, and help put things in new places. She wanted our help setting up her new home. I had not expected this at all. When we took her brother 3 years ago, we got all his stuff to his room, made sure he had what he needed to connect the computer and his roommate's TV, bought him a carpet, then left - or at least that is how it seems. I wish I had written then as I am now. Perhaps I will keep this memory fresh because of writing. But memories fade just as the moments with her seemed to fade all too quickly - though they lasted longer than we'd thought they would. Finally it was time to go. We left her with kisses and hugs, carefully hid the bag of goodies on the bed behind one of the many decorative pillows, and made our way to the cars for the ride home. I was dreading the ride back, certain it would seem extremely long through my tears and all the things I would be thinking about what she would face this year. I opened my door, sat down, told my husband I'd follow him, and looked over to see my son hopping in on the other side! One child was leaving home but the other hopped in next to me. It certainly made the ride back very pleasurable! We laughed and talked about what his freshman year had been like. What she might do tonight or in the coming weeks filled the 4 minutes it seemed to take to get home. Four days later, he moved back to campus. I find myself longing to hear the cell phone ring - no matter which ringtone, his or hers, and I smile at the music, let it play just a little longer than I might have before they were gone, and realize life is as it should be. Our job was to raise them to be independent and able to stand on their own as they answer God's call on their lives. They are just about there, and they still call Mom.