Written by: Leslie Means
“Is your car packed, Les?” Dad asked.
“Yep,” I was quick to respond. My one word answer proved conversation wasn’t on my list of priorities that day.
“We’ll leave early in the morning so you have plenty of time to get settled,” mom added.
I was beyond thrilled. This was it. In less than 24 hours I would be on my own, a college student, in the biggest city I had ever lived. My nerves were calm. I was timid to drive in what I considered heavy traffic but that seemed to be my only fear. I couldn’t wait to be on my own, meet new people, find my own way.
That morning seemed to drag on. My little red car was heavy, packed with towels, every shoe I’d ever owned and photos from high school. We avoided the interstate traffic, taking back roads to our final destination. Looking back, it was probably both a move to calm my nerves while driving and a way for my parents to spend a few more moments with their youngest child.
We finally arrived to campus late that morning, along with hundreds of other first-time students. Mom and Dad helped me haul 18 year’s worth of stuff into that tiny dorm room on floor 8. We grabbed a moving cart and began to pile on the boxes; including my 13 inch television and a computer that was twice that size.
We all crammed into the elevator waiting to reach my floor. Upon arrival, I anxiously searched for my number.
“801, 802, 803,” I whispered.
“806, this is it!” I thought and walked in to my new home.
To my parents I’m certain it looked small, cold and uninviting. To me, those 4 walls held every possibility, a lifetime of opportunities, freedom to find my own way.
We carried each box into that room until, finally, my red car was empty.
“Well, I guess it’s time to go home,” Dad said in his signature tone.
“This is it,” I thought to myself. “This is the moment everyone talks about, the moment when we say goodbye.”
My parents stood at the edge of my dorm room and gave me a quick hug before closing the doors behind them. I wasn’t sure of their emotions that day as I avoided eye contact during that pivotal moment, embarrassed they would see my unexpected tears.
When I was finally alone in my empty dorm room, it hit me. I sat down on the cold floor and started to cry.
“What am I doing?” I thought. “Now what? Where do I go? What do I do?”
I put up a thick wall trying to tell the world that I was more than ready to be on my own, able to do it myself. But truthfully, I was terrified and thrilled to be starting such a new adventure.
I dried my tears, picked myself up and began to live a new life as a college freshman. It was a fantastic year.
I was reminded of this moment last week. Instead of seeing it through my eyes, I felt a twinge of what is to come; a brief feeling of something, I’m certain, my parents felt on that pivotal late summer day 12 years ago.
Ella had requested a drink of water during church service last Sunday. I grabbed her hand, got up and helped her find the way to the fountain. Once we had reached our destination Ella turned to me and said,
“Mama, let me go. I’ll be OK; I can find my way back.”
It was a small moment, but one that pulled at my heart strings more than I expected. Instead of disagreeing with her, I decided to walk away and give her a bit of freedom. Just as she had promised, a few minutes later she found her way back to our seat, unaware of the impact that moment made on me.
It was then I realized someday in the not so distant future, I will truly have to let her go, just as my parents, and their parents, and every generation of parents have had to do. If it’s anything close to what I expect it to be, I know tears will flow once the final door is closed behind me.