Friday, August 3, 2012

Shopping for College




The other day we were out and about with our youngest son, Colin.  We were shopping for college stuff for his new dorm room.  If you have college-aged kids, you know what I’m talking about.  Or you may remember going out with your folks and doing the same…  extra long sheets for the dorm room bed, bathroom stuff, a new stash of socks, new shorts and t-shirts, etc.  It is sort of a right of passage.  He is bringing a microwave and a little freezer.  His roomie is bringing a TV and a small fridge.  Of course he’ll have his guitar, a poster of the Beatles, his stack of CDs, his computer and all kinds of personal things.  All of the stuff that makes him uniquely Colin. 

There were lots of other parents and their kids at BED BATH AND BEYOND doing the same thing.  Alarm clocks (which most kids don’t use these days – in favor of the alarms in their phones), shower shoes, new bed linens, dorm-room-trash-cans, little bathroom caddies for holding toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo and stuff - and all kinds of things one gets when one goestocollege for the very first time.  When one movesawayfromhome for the very first time.  Moves away from home.  Away from home.   Away. 

There is something beautiful to me about watching teenagers with their folks.  You see what the parents looked like when they were 25 or 30 years younger.  And you get a glimpse into the future faces of these youngsters.  There is something poignant, something so very real about seeing the interactions between these younger versions of these adults and their parents.  The teens trying not to seem scared or unsure of themselves.  The older ones trying not to seem scared for their kids, trying not to seem sad at the prospect of that empty bedroom, that quiet house. 

There is no question about their relationships.  Adults/their offspring.  There was this look on the faces of many of the moms and dads.  This look of pride in their kids – coupled with a look of sadness and of future loneliness.  There was an anxious look on the faces of many of these young adults too.  This look of  Ohmygod, this look of isthisreallyhappening?   I-can’t-wait / but / am-I-really-ready-for-this? 

Or am I just projecting these feelings? 

I remember when my dad dropped me off at college.  It was a big deal.  We didn’t spend a whole lot of time together, just the two of us.  He took the time to pack my stuff, drove hours away, helped me move my junk inside that sweaty old dorm room in Wright Quad, took me out to dinner, and gave me $40 to tuck into my pants pocket.  Something he told me not to report to me mom.  A secret.  Perhaps the only secret we ever shared. 

And I remember being scared.  I would miss my little brother, my homies – most of whom were younger than me.  I would miss my mom and riding the high school bus.  I would miss my room, my bunk bed, my woods and my lake.  I knew I would be home before too long.  But it wouldn’t be the same, right?  I would be visiting from college.  I would meet a whole bunch of new friends.  I wouldn’t have any monitored time I would have to come home or be in bed.  I could listen to music as loud as I wanted. 

And it was a BIG moment for me to move.  And I was anxious, scared, homesick, proud, on-my-own, curious, free, lonely, I was legitimately my own person.  I could be whoever I wanted to be with no parents to tell me when I had to do anything. 

It was a sort of, ready or not situation.  I just wasn’t sure f I was ready.

I think Colin is more sure than I was.  But he is probably having some of the same thoughts and feelings I had back then.  2012 - 1975 = 37 years ago.  A lot has changed in 37 years.  He has a car.  I didn’t have one until I was 21.  He has a computer and literally thousands of songs in his music collection.  I had a BSR turntable and a couple dozen records.  He’ll have a TV.  If we wanted to watch TV we had to go to the lounge and negotiate what to watch with everyone else on the floor.  Of course there were only 5 stations. 

But I am guessing that he is feeling a lot like I felt.

All I know is that I am going to miss that child-young man living in our house.  Those late night I-Love-You’s, those hammering drums and that guitar and his singing in full voice.  I’m going to miss cleaning his whiskers out of the sink, and picking up the empty food containers in his room.  I’m going to miss that super spicy food he prepared and the lessons he taught us about physics, black holes and whatever else his current passions are.  I’m going to miss him turning us on to new music that we would have never come across on our own.  I will miss his liberal politics and sense of social justice. 

While I miss that baby-toddler-little boy-adolescent he was.  I will miss the fine young man he is now.  Oh, he’ll be back.  I know.  He won’t be that far away.  We’ll probably see him nearly every week for a while. Bt it won’t be the same.  He knows it.  We know it.  It’s all part of the natural process.  It’s all good.  Still…

I can’t help but think of that old Robert Munsch book called I’ll Love You Forever.  I love that book.  When our boys were little we read it to them pretty often.  It follows the relationship of a mom and her son as he grows from a baby to a fine man.  There is a hook in the story, a repeating little song that the mother sings to the boy all the way from when he is a tiny baby until he is a full-grown man.

I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be


There is this part that describes the boy’s shift from a nine-year-old to a teenager…

Well that nine year old, it grew and it grew and it grew until it was a teenager.  And it had strange friends and it wore strange clothes, and it listened to strange music.  Sometimes the mother would say, “This kid is driving me crazy!”

But at nighttime when that teenager was asleep, the mother would open up the door to his room, crawl across the floor, look up over the side of the bed and, if that great big kid was really asleep, she would pick him up and rock him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, and sing…

I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be

Funny how your perspective changes over the years.  Colin used to be that baby.  Then that little kid.  Then that teenager.  Now he is the young man who is as much a friend as a son.  How blessed are we?

2 comments:

Ms. Breland's Class said...

This piece is so touching! I felt every word...every line! I can picture me pushing down that little knot in my throat as I go through the same process with Alani. Alani and I were just talking the other day about how quickly she went from a toddler to an 8 year-old.

Thank you for sharing so many great memories!

Chris Hass said...

I've been thinking about your comment the other day about having so few memories of just you and your dad and how carefully you've held on to each of them. The passage I put at the end of my most recent post reminded me of that as well, not to mention the relationship you have with your boys. Everything about that passage reminded me of you. It's something I aspire to.

I did try the beer and really, really liked it. I can't wait until next weekend when it'll have a bit more carbonation. I definitely want to try a batch of my own. If you have any time between now and the beginning of school I'd love to come over and brew it at your house and then bring it home to ferment/bottle. You'll have to let me know your schedule. We're headed to Myrtle Beach State Park next Wednesday-Friday and Ainsley's birthday is Saturday but I'm free any other day. Let me know if you're game.