Let Her Fly
Illustration by John Stricker
Any parent of a teenager knows that there are times when you can’t wait for them to move out, but I’ve found that once that actually happens, you can’t wait ‘til they come back home.
Our daughter Emma went away to school in August. By the time we finished packing her up for the drive to Southern California, our Tahoe looked like it was registered to the Joad family. It’s amazing how much stuff a 17-year-old girl can have, and even more amazing is how much of it she thinks needs to come with her. On move-in day, we hauled all that stuff to her third-floor dorm room, only to find that it was so small it wouldn’t even qualify as a walk-in closet in Granite Bay. So, half of it came back with us. We’re checking into the legality of holding a yard sale.
Prior to college, Emma had never been away from home for more than a week. Now, just like that, we weren‘t going to see her for a whole college quarter. I couldn’t quite get my mind around it. But she could and already had, starting about her junior year in high school. Like a lot of teens, she couldn’t wait to head off to college and start the rest of her life. Her mom and I tried to show her the cost-benefit analysis of maybe staying put a year or two and attending community college, but since she hadn’t yet taken Economics 101, our words bounced off her like rain to a rock. It’ll sink in eventually though – through student loans and her responsibility for half her tuition. LOL, as the kids say.
So there we were in her tiny dorm room, having finished unpacking all the things she absolutely needed like clothing, bedding and 24 back issues of Vogue. And then it was time to say goodbye. Our little girl stood before us and really, for the first time, I saw the young woman she had become. Where had 17 years gone? How had they gone by so fast? I was proud of her and maybe more importantly, proud for her.
While I wasn’t convinced she was totally ready to do this (earlier in the day she’d managed to lock herself out of her room), she possesses that fabulous unique-to-teenagers combination of unfaltering confidence and blinding naiveté, which seems to be the rocket fuel they need to blast off. It worked for us, right? After hugs all the way around (she even hugged her little brothers, about whom she once said, “Take the ‘r’ out of brother and you have ‘bother’”) we turned and left for the long drive home.
Since then, we talk (or, more accurately, text) daily and besides needing to come to grips with her “unfriending” us on Facebook – after I complained about a ridiculously handsome So-Cal boy she posted a picture of herself with, along with the caption, “Mmmm, college” – things seem to be going well.
I miss Emma terribly, but at the same time, the sting is lessened because I am elated that she’s happy and doing what she wants. She earned the right to be down there. I feel more for her mom, who’s missing her “Desperate Housewives,” mall-hopping buddy and is now stuck with three Discovery-Channel-watching, fart-joke-loving boys.
Thanksgiving is nearly here and it’ll be the first time we see our little bird in nearly four months. I’m not sure what to expect and am bracing myself for everything from, “I’m getting straight As!” to “I’m getting a tattoo!” Maybe both. But it doesn’t matter.
I cannot wait.
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