Today is the day. We have been planning for it for over two years now, even before my son’s junior year in high school when we toured colleges, when he took ACT prep courses and AP classes, participated in all those extracurricular activities, solicited recommendation letters and completed the college applications. It was almost all-consuming, until this May when he finally made his decision to attend a college a two-hour plane ride away. We could finally breathe a sigh of relief. Then, reality set in and we began to plan. Shopping, sorting clothes, packing, arranging travel.
We are on an early morning flight, bound for Portland, Oregon to move my son into college. It takes three parents to do this—his dad, his step-dad and I. I am almost sure my son will have the most parents to move him into a dorm suite he will share with three other young men. With all those parents and four students in one single room it is sure to be crowded. But I would not miss this for anything. Never mind that despite all my planning, late night packing and barely sleeping, we almost missed the flight because we left too late from the house. Perhaps I was delaying the inevitable? Anyway, my husband Juan and I made it without a moment to spare. My son had arrived at the airport with his dad and was already seated on the plane. Juan and I found our seats next to my son, and directly in front of his dad. It’s kind of strange to be traveling all together like this, but then again, it really isn’t. I know that all of us who have played a role in getting our son to this moment, would not want to miss it.
As I settle into my seat and calm my racing heart I hear the voice of a little boy in front of me. From the space between the seats I can see he has strawberry blonde hair. The passenger seated beside the boy engages him in a conversation. From the sound of the boy’s voice I guess him to be about 4 years-old. He is talking about Mickey and Minnie Mouse and coloring in a Disney coloring book. All of a sudden I am transported back to a time when I would sit with my own sweet 4 year-old blond-haired son, and read, over and over again, the story of the Tonka Rescue Helicopter. I close my eyes and try to recall the sound of 4 year-old Nico’s voice, but I can’t. I promise myself that soon I will convert all those video cassettes with countless recorded memories into a digital format, so I can actually watch them and hear my son’s 4 year-old voice.
I look over and see my son, headphones in place, eyes closed, and realize he is the same boy who I read to all those years ago. Then it occurs to me he is not. His once blond, fine hair is now a thick dark brown, and he has grown into a young man, ready to embark on a wonderful, challenging and exciting adventure—without me.
He is ready. I, on the other hand, may not be. My son has been a joy to raise and I love having him around. He is thoughtful, funny, sensitive, bright, kind and good. I don’t want college to change that. As much as I know college will challenge him to think and experience beyond the familiar, I hope that the values we have tried to impart on him will sustain him. I keep thinking there must be more I can say to him, some wisdom I can share to prepare him, but I know there is nothing else to say right now. We have talked about everything, some of it sensitive enough to embarrass him.
So we are here, about to launch this young man into a life away from his family. I realize that we didn’t begin this process only two years ago. We have been preparing for this moment his entire life. I look over at hm, napping, and I am glad. I don’t want him to see me blinking and squinting, trying unsuccessfully to keep the tears from rolling down my face. He is already concerned enough about his parents because he knows this transition will be difficult for us. I don’t want to cause him any more concern by seeing my tears. I use a cocktail napkin to dry my eyes and I know that even though I am sad at the thought of his leaving, I am deeply, truly excited for him. I think that means that I am ready too.