Hollins.

Well, move-in day has come and gone and all went relatively well.  Erin managed to pack most of her stuff by herself and we did get it all in one car.  backCheated a little bit by using the "back pack" for the car but everything fit.  We even started off pretty close to the time we wanted to set out.  Didn't want to take a chance on stopping at the Apple House for brekkie so we went to McDonalds.  Haven't been there in an age but the breakfast sandwiches aren't bad.  So, after a 3 hour drive we were at Hollins.  The sign-in line was long.  The process wasn't very clean but it's typical.  You have to approach these things with an open mind.  We got registered, signed in, ID'd, etc, etc, etc.  Then it was off to move in to the dorm.  That part actually went pretty well.  The school had volunteers and staff who had carts and whatnot that made the process painless.  We made a couple of trips ourselves with the breakables but the volunteers got all of our other stuff on a trolley and brought it up.  Setting up the dorm room really wasn't bad.  Make the bed, provide suggestions on poster location, etc.

My part in all of this was relatively minimal.  I identified my role several weeks ago.  In this activity I am not management.  I'm labor and transportation.  I didn't exactly leave the room while it was being setup but I did stay out of the way.  Let Sarah putter around adjusting things and Erin make decisions about locations.  It was fun to watch.  I think Erin and Sarah wanted everything "just so" but I don't know that it is ever that final.  Either way, I observed and assisted.

Now, most college move-in stories would be winding down right about now.  My own was "the family went to lunch together and then Mom and Dad left."  Not at Hollins.  No, they have a ceremony where the other students and staff line a wide sidewalk that leads to the "front quad" and cheer while the freshmen girls walk through the "tunnel."  That was pretty cool and important.  It was just before this ceremony that they separated parents and students.  We walked Erin over to the group of students and then had to walk by ourselves around to the front quad.  Sarah and I walked hand in hand but we both felt lonely already.  We went to the front quad, sat on a rock and watched the kids walk in.  Everyone was seated and there was about an hour's worth of speechifying.  At that point, the students were broken into smaller groups and led off for small group meetings while the parents went to their own meeting.  

Sarah and I didn't go to the meeting.  We just sat on the empty front quad and listened to the blues band that was playing.  We just sat, chatted and listened.  Sitting through another presentation didn't seem as important as our spending a few quiet moments together.  Bollocks to them and the meeting.

The "Picnic Dinner" following this activity was actually served in the dining hall.  It's an odd name for an indoor activity.  We waited in lines again but it didn't really matter.  After that, it was desert at the President's house and then on to the big moment wherein we leave our only kid behind in someone else's care.  It is, of course, far worse than that.  This isn't summer camp.  She isn't going to come home with a skinned knee that needs antiseptic.  No, We both know that the daughter we see in a month or so is going to be a different person and there is no antiseptic that you can put on that.  Not for her.  Not for us.  

I felt so parental and wise over the past month, encouraging her to go and "make the most out of it" and "learn how to think for yourself".  I mean, what kind of idiot thinks like that?  When I reflect on my own college experience I wasn't "learning how to think" or anything even close.  That might have been the net result but I was just struggling to fit in, survive and thrive.  To figure it all out.  To not fail.  Upon reflection, this whole thing seems like a horrible mistake right about now.  But it probably won't forever.  Maybe not even a couple of weeks.  I guess it all depends on who comes back from college, right?

We drove down from the Presidents house to the dorm and we all got out.  Erin got some items out of the back of the car.  I smiled and handed her a roll of paper towels.  We were close to the moment.  Sarah was crying.  Very sad for her.  Erin was stalling.  She wanted to re-wrap the paper towels.  I was telling her she was being silly.  Oddly, there was nobody else in the parking lot other than us.  I looked at Sarah.  Tears running down her cheeks, She nodded.  We both looked at Erin.  Sarah went first: "baby, we have to go."  Everyone was crying.  I grabbed everyone in a group hug and then pushed us all back.  "Erin, we have to go."  We were all sad.  But we all knew there was no other way.  This had to happen.  Erin took one final look and walked to her dorm.  We got in our car. 

 I called out to Erin for her to turn around just as she got to the door and took a final picture….and we were off on our separate ways.  Sarah and I to grow old and fade into the background and Erin on the most exciting part of her life so far.

It really does feel like my life – or at least the most important part of it – is over.  Not in a physical sense although I suppose I could get hit by a bus this afternoon….no, I mean the biggest and most important thing I have ever done is now concluded.  Sarah and I have delivered to the world a person who is capable and self-reliant.  That seems more important than anything else I've ever accomplished and there's not much else worth doing at this point.

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Summer’s End

You can see it coming.  The little leaves are starting to turn.  The gardens are exploding with late season produce.  Kids are getting ready to go back to school.  But more than seeing it, you can feel it.  Not in the middle of the day.  Too much going on and the sun is still too high.  No, it's in the quiet of the morning where you can feel it's just a little cooler in the morning.  It takes the heat of the day just that little bit longer to get going.  Summer is hanging on by his fingernails.  It's maybe the one season where most humans join in and resist the shift in seasons but it won't last.  Even if it remains hot into September, Labor Day performs the coup de grace on that "summer mentality."  The summer state of mind ends and we're back to suburban fall…hustle and bustle, no time for anyone.  

I'm not looking forward to it.  Yes, it's just a couple of weeks away but I admit to holding on to every summer day right about now.  I get up early, open the window in my office and dare the bugs to come in the house.  I put on a little Foo Fighters and either read or write until it is time to go to work.  After work, I cycle and come home.  If its nice, we'll hang out in the back yard.  As ridiculous as it sounds we'll light a fire in the fire pit.  Yes, even if it's like 85 degrees.  It's great.  

The end of this summer also seems to have brought on an explosion of "stuff" in my bike room.  The stuff that is necessary to setup a dorm room.  To my untrained eye, the pile looks pretty big.  My daughter assures me it isn't that large.  It also doesn't appear to include any clothes as of yet.  That's ominous and I forsee some hard choices being made.  After all, we aren't taking the Expedition.  It's been a trooper but it is 14 years old and I don' think a drive to Roanoke ends well.  No, we're taking the smaller crossover.  That has a somewhat reduced capacity.  I worry that we're going to end up in a pack whatever you can and ship the rest situation.  Either way, this too shall pass.

I guess we're, what?  Two weeks away from taking her to school?  In the quiet of the mornings, as summer fades, I admit to being somewhat melancholy at the prospect.  Hanging with young people is so much fun.  Energy.  Creatviity.  It's not as though I wish her to stay or am troubled by the prospect of her being on her own.  I think her a capable woman.  It's just the change I guess.  Since she was born and put on a schedule, we've handled things around here the same way for 18 years.  That's a long time and that's really the crux of the matter: it isn't just a big change for her, it's a big change for Sarah and I.  People always joke when they're talking to soon-to-be empty nesters; "so, you're going to rip your clothes off and run around the house?"  I always smile and nod but wonder why the hell someone would ask that?  Tempted to hit them with "well, I feel like my biological imperative is fulfulled so I'm considering walking out into a blizzard like an eldery eskimo, what do you think?"  :)

Maybe it's just a confluence of events but I'm a bit reserved these days.  I…hmmm, well, we?  Yes, WE.  We lost a boyhood friend in Allan Guy this week.  Allan was among the most decent humans I ever knew.  We didn't spend a lot of time together in later years but whenever we did chat it really didn't require much preamble and we just got along.  I feel bad for my cousin Chris who was better friends with Allan and had the misfortune of finding Allan.  That's rough.  That, combined with the other big change, have conspired to put me in a reflective mood the past few days.  I worry about things that maybe don't deserve the attention.  I'm not normally one who worries all that much about what's done: action first and sort out the details later….but I dwell.  Have I wasted a lot of my life?  Should I have been involved in politics?  I invested so much heart and my very soul in my Council time but at the end it felt pretty empty.  It felt like politics – in the pejorative sense – and not problem solving.  Was that a waste of time?  I dunno.  About all I'm sure of is that what's most important in life are people.  I really don't know what comes next for empty nesters.  I expect you get up and go to work the next day and stop wondering about it.  However, I do know that people will be more important to me going forward than they've ever been.  Whatever else happens, I won't regret that…..

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