Enumeration: 5 moments after dropping your child off at college
Poof! Just like that, they're gone. These children you carried, inside you, on your hip, on your front, on your back. Clinging to your leg at the pre-school entrance, hiding behind you when introduced to strangers, dallying far too long in their bedrooms when they begrudge a dinner party you're hosting. You carry them, buoy their spirits, bolster their confidence until one day you are standing in front of a brick or stucco or glass and steel high rise dorm, saying goodbye, not just to your child but to their childhood.
1. You thought saying goodbye would be harder for you than it would be for her. You were wrong. Growing up in an isolated rural town, she's had the same friends her whole life. Not only does she not know how to make new friends, she doesn't have the energy for it.
2. After the parent farewell, you leave your child on the curb, all of you fighting back tears. You follow the caravan of sobbing parents out to the highway while around the perimeter of campus, students sit alone on the grass, pretending to be engaged on their phones while really they are trying to hold it together. They don't yet have a sympathetic shoulder to cry on, another soul who gets how they can be both excited about the next chapter while simultaneously desperately homesick. They're wondering who they will meet for dinner in the dining hall, because above all else, they don't want to be alone tonight.
3. Your child texts you from college. She's lonely and exhausted. Her room is stifling, even with three fans going. The hot water in the dorm is broken. Classes are hard; she's unprepared. She's not sure who her people will be. And even though these are hardships of privilege, your heart aches for her.
4. Your child texts you from college. She is starting to make friends. You hear names floated, the same names start to pop up repeatedly. They're camping, hanging out on the Quad, throwing a frisbee around, going to brunch. Your child is finding her tribe at her own pace; slowly surrounding herself with others who make her feel like she is someone worth knowing.
5. Your child texts you from college. There is a partner costume party and she's at a thrift store shopping for her outfit. Members of the girls team are paired with members of the boys team, each pair to attend as a well-known duo. You think Abbot & Costello, Laverne & Shirley, Laurel & Hardy, even Beavis & Butt-head. You think Orville & Wilbur, Frog & Toad, Harold & Maude. But as soon as you see the photos you know, before you even read her text, where she tells you "I think these guys are comedians...not really sure...ha ha."
And you wonder if your parenting fail is her glorification of pot culture or her ignorance of the hazy brilliant pioneers of stoner comedy. And you don't even care, because she is beginning to figure out who she wants to be, and if you are launching her out of your nest, it is at least into a horizon where everything, as Tommy Chong might say, has the possibility of being cosmic.