Posted by Sandy.
There was always going to be tears, buckets of them. I was the little girl in the movie theatre that was escorted out by the usher (remember ushers?) because I sobbed at the sad parts of every Walt Disney movie ever made. I never grew out of it. Happy tears, sad tears, empathetic tears, I am a champion weeper.
It’s such a busy year. Finding the right school. Visiting the school. Applications. Essays. Scholarships. It’s fun and it’s exciting. He was ready. But there was a part of me that couldn’t quite grasp what was happening. There is a part of us, as moms, that can’t believe that they are going to go. At night, when I couldn’t sleep because I was beginning to realize that this really was going to happen, I could go back to sleep by telling myself, it’s ten months away, six months away, three months away. There is also a part of you that worries the same worry you felt before kindergarten. Will he be homesick? Will he make friends? Will he be happy there? And there’s a moment or two or ten when you’re blindsided by something that turns you into a blubbering fool. For me it was realizing, in the checkout line, no less, that I was buying the last package of Morning Star Vegetarian Breakfast Sausages I’d buy while he still lived at home. I hyperventilated. It wasn’t pretty. It’s not a rollercoaster of emotion; it’s more like bumper cars.
We took the train to New York. When it was time to check in to the dorm, Matt asked us to sit on the wall across the street. I told my daughter that when I thought I was going to cry, I would say I needed something to drink. After watching the line barely move for over two hours, in a very soft voice, Louisa said “Mom, just because you say you’re going for a drink, doesn’t mean you have to keep buying one”. On the wall behind me were half a dozen cans of soda and bottles of water, a sip or two out of each.
After dinner, the night before we were to leave, Matt said he wanted us to say our goodbyes then. I could tell by his face that he was both excited and a little apprehensive of what was ahead. I was not going to add to the apprehension or dampen the enthusiasm by crying in front of him. He stopped in front of a granite post office building. The street was dark, not a soul on it but us, a rare occurrence in Manhattan. I remember the two of them talking softly then hugging. It sounds corny, but I remember them framed in the soft yellow of the street lights, talking softly then hugging. The loves of my life. I don’t remember our good bye. Louisa and I went back to the hotel. I thought I was fine.
I woke up with a wet pillow. I was weeping but I didn’t feel sad. I didn’t know what I was feeling. My tears just seemed to have a life of their own. I got in the shower, got dressed, told myself I was going out to get coffee. I did buy a coffee but the next thing I knew, my hand was in the air and a voice I knew as mine was saying “taxi”. As I got in the cab, I spilled the whole cup of coffee in my lap. The cab dropped me a block from the dorm. All I was going to do, I told myself, was sit there for a few minutes, staring at the window I knew was his and then I’d be okay. I must have sat there for longer than I realized, because the security guard came down the steps, crossed the street, and said to me “you need to move along”. I told him I was just sitting there looking at the window of my son’s dorm room. I even helpfully pointed out which window was his. He repeated himself and added, “please don’t make me call the cops”. When I stood up I realized, I looked like a vagrant. I was a mess and the coffee I had spilled in my lap, made it look like I had wet my pants. He was right to make me move along. I walked up to 2nd to hail a cab but whatever forces were moving me that morning put a working pay phone in my path and 75 cents in my pocket. I’ll just call and pretend I’m at the hotel and tell him I love him, I told myself. So I did. He asked me where I was. I said at the hotel. A long moment of silence. He said: “Where are you REALLY, Mom?” I said, “I’m on 5th and 12th”. The weeping was back. He said “Wait there”. I did. We walked to a little park and sat on a bench. I told him about the security guard and my brush with the law. I said I was sorry. I knew he’d wanted us to say goodbye the night before and I had promised myself that that was how it would be. I was so sorry to put him through this twice. I felt so selfish.
He put his arm around my shoulder, and said to me: “It’s okay Mom. I’m kind of glad you did it. I was thinking last night that if you didn’t do something crazy before you left, that maybe you didn’t love me as much as I thought you did. He took my hand, smiled and said: “I have no doubt now.”
I walked him to within a block of the dorm. I hugged him for a long minute. I got in a cab, picked up some coffee and breakfast for Louisa. I opened the door to our room. She was still asleep. We packed and got on the train.
Louisa said when it was her turn, she was taking a cab to college.