For the past three years, it’s been the Labor Day holiday that marks a bittersweet end of summer. This weekend means that the daughter will be making the 1100 mile journey to college. The first year, we took her – and all the belongings that she was convinced she simply had to have. It was an epic journey for a young lady that had never left her home state. She was so unnerved at our eventual arrival that she couldn’t even look at the beautiful Bell Tower and Chapel spire that marks the location of Cornell College in Iowa. It was hard for all of us, but we the parents put on a brave face and smiled in relief as the athletic students lined up to offload the arriving freshman. Her dorm room was on the third floor and there weren’t elevators….schlepping all this stuff up six flights of stairs would have invited a coronary in our unfit bodies!
At first, we simply couldn’t afford airfare for the winter break round trip, but we bought bus tickets and she managed the 18 hour long ride with patience overcoming hesitancy. The stories she would tell at the end of each journey were worth the nail-biting wait to see that she’d make it home and then back again safely. Her first summer, she brought home a classmate who couldn’t go home after a phone call home pleading for us to add to our brood. His sexual preferences and the politics of the emerging ruling party were at serious odds with his longevity as a human being. That the Buddhist priests in his native country were complicit in this travesty dropped my respect for their basic humanity and compassion considerably.
This was the summer of an education for all concerned, but it was also the summer of watching the joy of a newcomer to this country as he experienced the Fourth of July as it should be; with barbequed brisket, cold sliced watermelon, swimming in a spring-fed paradise and watching fireworks from the sweet scent of a newly mowed hayfield. It was also a wake-up call for the Dane and I – when we saw how desperately unhappy he was, we challenged him to follow his dream. Life is too short not to give it a go. He changed majors, colleges, and with his dream firmly in hand went to welcome his sister to America and her college. Whether he fails or succeeds, he will never have the regret that his dream went unpursued.
All too soon, it was time for Kat’s sophomore year to commence and this time, we could put her on a plane for the journey with a ticket to come home over the Yule holidays. What we didn’t even think of was the probability of the fickle Iowa winters when winter break came upon us and the encroaching blizzard that her plane barely escaped. There was a quick prayer of gratitude that her plane didn’t go through Chicago and as soon as it had come upon us, her winter break was over and she was back to deal with snow, classes and the season of cold that couldn’t seem to let go.
Now the second summer break is over and yesterday, after a meal with family at a Vietnamese noodle restaurant we put her on a plane to return for her junior year. Kat is no longer the uncertain student that she was when she first peeked through her fingers at the beautiful hilltop campus. Her friends, now lovingly known as her “posse’” have come to love her and us as we them. Not unlike something growing into being from yarn and a crochet hook, all the loops and twists are coming together into a solid body of education for our child, now nearly full-grown.
We are at the half-way point, and we see such a change. It’s beautiful, it’s breathtaking and a miracle almost equivalent to her birth. Within my heart, I sincerely pray that everyone with a child in college steps back to watch the unfolding, the rebirthing, and the forging of an individual that this process creates. Oh, it’s not over but when you could only see the misty edges of a dream, seeing it at the halfway point begins to awaken a belief in the impossible again.
I must admit to a bit of tongue biting when she announced that she would be the “house manager” for the year at the 8-person housing unit this year. My beloved child is about to learn all about ‘tough love’ and setting boundaries. My prayers go up that she won’t come home bitter and bald; however a certain knowledge of human nature predicts several phone calls home for a “What in the Hell do I do about this?” session. Her Dad will field those phone calls, because he married a Valkyrie who would rather pull a sword to dispatch a problem than negotiate an agreement on the bridge.
When it all comes down to it, it truly a matter of weaving in the ends rather than leaving something that could be snagged and pulled apart. We are all one, we are all woven together, and it helps to remember the feel of the threads in our hands when what we weave grows beyond the skein.