Our girl is graduating from college this coming Saturday. In a fugue state, I address the announcements. How did it happen so fast? I still remember the scent of the back of her infant neck, a peachy milky perfume, and the feel of her velvety bald head against my cheek.
My mother tells me these things are never forgotten, and for that I'm glad. Here's my beautiful mom:
The summer before high school graduation
she and her dad did the college tour, a whirlwind ten days at her favorite choices: UC Davis in California, University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and University of Colorado, Boulder. In the end she chose Humboldt State University in way northern California, strictly because of finances- they had a matching in-state partnership with University of Hawaii, so tuition was “affordable” (oxymoron.)
I remember that first trip to a college we’d never even visited, her entire life reduced to two suitcases, one of them duct-taped. The flight from Hawaii, whirlwind tour of San Francisco with a sister who lived there, Tawny’s excitement high—me numb with a plastic smile. Four years later I still have a picture of her I took on the carousel at Pier 49, getting dog-eared on the fridge. That radiance that’s such a part of her fills a smile bigger than the moon, full of all the potential that’s a part of being eighteen and setting out on the great adventure we call Life.
I drove up the 101 from San Francisco with two almost-women, my niece who was considering the school and my daughter, and after a blur of “orientation” activities, I left her for the first time in both our lives. It was a feeling of dismemberment and loss like a phantom limb. My sister-in-law, putting me up for the night on the way back to the airport, passed tissues as I told stories of her as a child and cried my eyes out like an Irishwoman at a wake.
The college is small for a California state institution, a lovely tidy campus tucked in the redwood forest near Humboldt Bay beside an eclectic village called Arcata that stole my heart with it’s colorful residents, coffee shops and lumberjack bars. Still, it really did feel irresponsible to just leave her there, like dropping off a baby in a basket on the curb of the big bad redwoods. Anything could happen, and all I had to give her was a thingie of pepper spray and a lecture about drinking enough water. (I’m a big believer in drinking water for brain function)
There were bi-annual trips bringing her home we could hardly afford but couldn’t do without. The second and only time I was able to visit Arcata, I decided I wanted to move there, heck I could even work at the college. Hawaii is overpriced anyway, and I felt ready for a change. The hubby and I looked at homes, and I talked to the clinic on campus and they offered me an interview as one of their therapists.
I told Tawny this and I’ll never forget looking into her blue blue eyes as she said, “No. No, Mom. If you come work at the college I’m leaving.”
She’d found her voice, her independence, and she was loving life. Thanks HSU! That blind, financially motivated college choice turned out to be a great move as she discovered the rowing team and a passion for science that’s led to a prestigious research fellowship with Stanford next fall.
It was me that was struggling. So I got a couple more dogs, foo-foo ones that require a lot of shampooing, brushing and affection. That helped. Worked on my marriage. That also helped. Hugged my remaining son a lot. My work and my writing filled the rest of the void.
My daughter has grown up and HSU has been the perfect school for her. We’ve done our job, we should be celebrating, and we are… but it’s been a damn fine ride, even from this far away. And I’m going to miss it all, and someday I’ll accept that I only get to see her a few weeks a year.
I’ve been spoiled because this whole time my son has lived nearby, attended community college, and worked his own computer tech business and at Jamba Juice. He’s a fun-loving, creative, affectionate and helpful part of my life, so integral I can’t really grasp that June 1 he moves away to California too.
What am I going to do? I think I may have to start another book series.
How have you dealt with the graduations, moves and passages of your life?
What a lovely and moving tribute to Mothers, Daughters, and Sons! Happy Mom’s Day.
Right back atcha, Julie! Hope your day is special.
Great post. I loved reading it. 🙂
And what a beautiful family you have. Happy Mother’s Day. 🙂
Yes, they are gorgeous, aren’t they?
What a lovely Mother’s Day gift. Tawny taught us all so much about trusting a teenager to grow up good. We all loved her hair, if that was the extent of her rebellion, yaaay… Letting go remains a challenge. Just when I think I have a handle on it….”like flying a kite way up high, and then releasing the string”… an image that really helps me… I see that I need a new image! Yet, ‘letting go’ is so powerfully the only way to ‘keep’ the persons, places and things we love. Another one of those human paradoxes. We do learn to live with them, and hopefully laugh at them! I love you, Toby!
So glad you figured out the comments, Mom! Can’t wait to see you tonight!
She has your smile, Toby. And Humboldt is a great place. My sons are all away. One in Honolulu, one in Walla Walla, WA with my only grandkid and one here. Hardly see them except by phone, sometimes Skype and one in person when he needs something. You have your true love, so at least you can make this transition together. You have to left go. That’s the hardest thing about being a mom, a parent. You have to let them fail and pick themselves up, you have to give encouragement when the going is tough.
Seems like you are making it work. I never wanted to be so long-distance, though! *sniff*
There are many intricate nuances in letting go between mothers and offspring.
The Mother’s Day card already selected and at hand before my mother passed was tucked into her casket…..in eternal greeting and accompanying her to her final rest two weeks before this special holiday.
Those who give us life must be thanked always–regardless of all that passes after that momentous and qualifying event.
What a beautiful heartfelt comment, Carla. Thanks so much for sharing. You made me tear up for an aunt I never knew.
It won’t be long before my two, son and daughter, are off with their own lives. Son is 13 and daughter turned 15 yesterday. 15, wow, I don’t know whether to hide the car or cry.
Those two are the most precious things in my life and nothing else matters. Not my aspirations, my dreams, all I do I do is for them. And I cherish every minute I can. My time is their time.
They are involved in so many activities, neither me or my wife are drop-off parents and I don’t won’t to be. I want to be there at practice or rehearsal just as much as seeing a recital or game.
Maybe it all stems from my childhood of not having my parents around. I use to regret that but I’ve learned my kids are better for it.
15 months after my birth my mother passed away. On that day, as I stayed with my aunt, it was told that I started wailing out of sleep. That motherly bond frayed that day.
My father, of no fault of his, worked long hours, so I grew up with my grandparents hundreds of miles away. I didn’t play catch in the backyard and he only saw one of my basketball games. I love my Dad and because of that I will not miss anything my kids do.
But when they start out on their own path, I’ll have to let go…just a little.
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughtful reply and your heart. Believe me, if you’ve done parenting right (and it sounds like you have) it’s easier because you stay close. But I’ve never stopped missing them and I know I never will.
Love and enjoy every minute!