Well . . . the day we both knew would come had finally arrived: Thursday, August 21, 2014. I will remember this date for the rest of my life.
It’s 5:00 a.m. and drizzling rain as the grandparents, Aunt Rose and you and I load up grandpa’s pickup truck to head south to St. Louis, Missouri, where you have chosen to attend Maryville University. It’s a 4-hour, 300-mile drive to the Show Me State from the Windy City, and we are all excited and looking forward to the trip.
Moving slow and catching winks of sleep here and there, we ride in silence for a while before stopping at McDonald’s for breakfast after the sun rises. On the road again, we talk and laugh as we travel Interstate 55 South.
A few hours later we arrive at MU. Student volunteers are easily identifiable in their red and gray Maryville Saints t-shirts. The campus bustles with energy as excited students, faculty and staff welcome the Class of 2018 and gracefully put “first-kid-in-college-parents” at ease.
First Stop: Check-in at Donius. Here you receive a student ID card, submit health records, confirm your dorm house assignment and receive an MU gift bag with lots of cool stuff inside.
Second Stop: Potter Hall, formerly a Marriott hotel renovated and converted into a dorm house. Cool! Once inside your dorm, we get busy unpacking and organizing your things.
Your roommate, who is in her fourth year of physical therapy studies and also a Potter Hall Resident Assistant, stops by to introduce herself and welcome us. I am glad to meet her in person and I feel comfortable with her immediately. She embodies a confident, relaxed and down-to-earth spirit. I am hopeful that her experience and leadership will have a positive impact on your first year.
Third Stop: The Auditorium, for a welcome session for students and parents. It kicks off with a humorous skit between mother and daughter about the first three months of college and the anxiety both experience as they adjust to the separation. It was entertaining and well done.
Fourth Stop: Potter Hall. It’s been a full day and we now have a bird’s eye view of the culture you are about to become immersed in, and it is all good.
I accept the inevitable as we pull up to Potter Hall. It is time to say our goodbyes: a hug for Aunt Rose, and one for grandma, too. As you walk toward me, I notice tears in your eyes. Our eyes lock. (I was doing so well keeping my composure before I looked into your eyes. Now, my eyes begin to fill with tears.) We reach for each other and I hold you close to me as I tell you how proud I am of you; that everything will be fine, and although there are hundreds of miles between us, you have open access to call or text or email or request a Skype chat at any time, day or night, about anything. I tell you I love you and that I am with you in spirit. I hug you gently but firmly one last time before we release our embrace. You say goodbye to grandpa as you continue to try to hold back tears.
“You Ok?” asks grandpa.
“Yeah, my eyes are just burning,” you answer. “Mom, do you have any blink?” I instruct grandpa to unlock the back of his pickup truck so I can give you the bottle of lubricating eye drops I packed in my overnight bag.
“That is normal for an occasion like this; it’s ok,” assures grandpa as he smiles and hugs you and wishes you well.
You say goodbye to us once more, turn and walk toward the dorm doors. The aqua color t-shirt you are wearing slowly morphs into a rainbow of colors as you become surrounded by your dorm mates and your new college life.