Dropping her off at college. And then driving away.
I imagined the sobbing, the clinging, the sweating (always, with the sweat). I thought long and hard about what my last words to her would be, what nuggets of wisdom and warm gooey maternal love I'd leave her to hold and examine and cherish.
As the pile of her "college stuff" grew in our weird little nook by the sliding glass doors, it became woefully obvious that my tinny little Ford Focus would not be able to carry all of it, plus my daughter and me and the one brother she requested to accompany us. No way. One of my friends, my young pal Alex whom I met at trivia many moons ago, stepped up and said he'd drive us in his SUV. Again, my friends save us. It never fails to get me all kinds of verklempt when it happens.
The BIG DAY arrived...so, so quickly and if a day could sneer, it would have been sneering at me. I woke my girl up, one last time, and as we finished packing the last-minute things, Alex arrived and we began the Tetris game of packing up the vehicle. Alex won:
|All clear, Alex! Bravo.|
There was just enough room left inside for Alex, me, Molly and Henry:
|If you squint, you can see the college freshman.|
Are you imagining the tears? Do you think I was like a human sprinkler with the crying that must have been happening?
Nope. There were none. There had been a few the day before, when William gave Molly a goodbye hug before setting out to a sleepover. And several the day before that, when I read a text from a friend, who was sending her little girl off to France:
"Enjoy your time with her as your little girl, she will have changed the next time you see her."
But my eyes were dry that morning. And during the drive. There might have been a few tears shed when we drove down the streets leading to the dorm, past the throngs of rental houses where the older students live. They were all out on their lawns, kegs and camp chairs galore, and several of the students stood, holding signs that said things like:
YOU HONK, WE DRINK!
I'M GOING TO TEACH YOUR SON BULLDOGGIE STYLE! (held by a girl) (the college mascot is a Bulldog, obvs)
AFTER 18 YEARS, I'M HER DADDY NOW (this one was kind of chilling, actually, but made me laugh)
MILFS DRINK FREE! (Alex, slow down! I'm parched!)
V-CARDS SWIPED HERE!
And so on and so forth. I'm not a pearl-clutcher, so those signs didn't give me a case of the vapors. In fact, they gave me my first rush of nostalgia as I remembered driving down those same streets 28 years prior. There is no feeling like that in the world, is there? Knowing that you are about to embark on one of the most transforming life-journeys of all...the freedom, the fun, the responsibility...and oh yes, the parties.
It was those feelings I was thinking about as we unloaded the carefully packed car, and with just two giant rolling carts and some manpower, we moved Molly into her new home. I think that's why I wasn't crying. This whole experience is hers, and hers alone. I'd had my time, it was over and done. I was sad, yes, sad that my lone girl-child wasn't going to be around me like she's been for the past 18 years, sad because there was nobody else who would sit on the couch and watch awful television with me, sad because there are always going to be regrets and piles of "should've, could've and would've" thoughts during milestones this enormous.
But this time? It's Molly's time and knowing this kept my head in the right place. Not in the past, not bemoaning my loss...but right there, in the present, helping my daughter take her first steps in this new life. Just as I stood beside her when she first began toddling on her achingly adorable chubby little baby feet, so I stood beside her as we met her roommate, as we put her mattress pad on and made her bed, as we organized and plugged things in.
The pride that filled my heart was colossal. Proud beyond description of my daughter, my sweet lady who overcame painful shyness and some pretty intense anxiety and was now moving to a new city without any of her close friends in tow. Proud of her for not becoming one of the stereotypical "children of single mothers", those kids who, according to some asshat people and politicians, are doomed to a life of hardscrabble times, drugs and alcohol and teen pregnancies and gun violence.
Oh shit. Here come some tears. But not the big ugly cry I've been anticipating. Nope. I don't think that one is going to happen, folks. Maybe it was me preparing myself for this event months in advance. Maybe it was reading other mama's experiences with this scenario and weeping over their photos and words (like my new favorite blogger friend, Amy, and her piece about the drop off...read it here and then when you're done crying come back here to the place where THERE ARE NO TEARS).
Maybe it's because I've done with these feelings as I've done with so many others throughout my life: shoved them down somewhere deep and dark and covered them with Ling Ling's Potstickers and martinis. I am a wee bit worried that this is exactly what's happened and that something is going to trigger me at the wrong place and the wrong time: mayhap it'll be at school when I'm working and I'll see a mama and her kindergarten girl walking out to their car, hand in hand, talking about butterflies and new friends. note to self: don't look at them.
Or maybe, just maybe, all of this growing and changing that my daughter is doing, is also happening within me. Maybe the two of us are approaching separate, but equally major, developments in our lives. She's becoming an adult, living on her own without Mommy in the next bedroom. And me?
I'm watching the city disappear in my rearview, the city my daughter will call home for the next year...and there are no tears. Only love and pride.
P.S. I received my first text from her about 5 minutes after I took that picture. It read, "OMG Mom. I forgot to pack a toothbrush." She's still my little girl.