The Beauty of the Rain…

When we first announced to friends, family, and to be honest, perfect strangers who would stand still long enough for me to brag about my daughter going to Mount Holyoke, almost everyone’s response was, “Oh my! How can you send her so far away?”

There were lots of reasons: the opportunities she would be granted, the quality of the education, the adventure of living in a new state. For me, though, I knew it would be the only way to force me to let go. If she were closer, I would still try to take care of her, do everything for her, make her life easy. She’s 2000 miles away, and I can’t do that, and that is a really good thing.

So when Aubrey needed to go get a new copy of her social security card, the only thing I did was look up the closest office. I was worried it would be in Boston, and that she would try to take the train or something. Instead, it was in Holyoke, less than five miles away. She looked at the bus schedule, and discovered it would take an hour and a half each way. I asked her if she was going to ride the bus, or walk (which would be faster). Instead, she decided to ride her bike.

The only day she has enough time available to trek to the “town” from the “village” is on Fridays, when she finishes with her classes early. Unfortunately, this Friday, it was pouring down rain, but she didn’t really have a choice. If she didn’t get her card, she wouldn’t be able to keep her campus job. Ever the brave little Aubrey, she threw on her raincoat (hooray for Land’s End!), pulled on her old leather horseback riding boots in lieu of rainboots, put on her bike helmet, and set off on her way.

Suddenly, Friday afternoon, my phone rings. I was in the middle of frantic cleaning (truthfully, the directing of the frantic cleaning) for a housewarming get together, but I saw it was Aub. I pick up the phone and she immediately starts babbling in a very pissed voice that she is lost, has been up and down the hill twice, is soaking wet, stopped at a convenience store to ask directions but the cashier didn’t speak English, and she can’t find the Social Security Office; could I google it and give her directions?

I asked her where she was. “On the corner of Dwight and Elm. Walnut is behind me.” Okay…I found it. “Aub, you’re only two blocks away. just go down to High Street and turn left, and it’s right there.” “But which way do I go?” “Away from Walnut.” “But Walnut is behind me.” “Yes…so just keep going the same direction you’re currently going. Call me when you get there so I know you made it.”

Less than five minutes later, she calls to say she’s made it. She’s still pissed off that she’s wet, but she goes in, and ten minutes later, comes out with her reciept and a verification letter that she can use until she gets her card. Now she wants to know how to get to the nearest Starbucks or McDonald’s. Unlike metropolitan areas, Starbucks are harder to find in the tiny towns, but McDonald’s are everywhere, including two blocks from where she was. I gave her directions and told her to call when she got there.

It took her over half an hour, and I was starting to worry, but it turned out that when she got to McDonald’s, she went in the bathroom and used the hand dryer to get her clothes from soaked to slightly less soaked. She waited a while for the rain to let up, or at least for her thighs to stop screaming, then headed back to campus. Again, I told her to call me when she got there. It took her way less time to get back to school. Although it was uphill both ways, it was mostly downhill on the way back.

I was so incredibly proud of her. Going a little over 8 miles roundtrip to get a social security card doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is when you’re from another state, and you’ve never had to take care of governmental things like that by yourself. Ron is constantly worried whether she’s doing her homework and studying. I worry about that too, but in all honestly, I know (and I realize that this is an advantage of a private liberal arts school) that college is so much more than that.

Yes, she could have stayed here, or closer at least, and gotten a piece of paper saying she’d satisfactorily completed such and such classes in four years. But would she be able to accomplish anything above and beyond that? Over the years of my software career, I worked with so many people who had graduate degrees but were useless idiots. They couldn’t problem solve, think for themselves, question if maybe there was a better way to do something. Aubrey was already a great problem solver and self-thinker, but I babied her through the hard stuff. Problems at school? I’d make a phone call. Need a government document? I’d take care of it. Need to go to Walmart, get groceries, pick up your meds? Here are the car keys and my debit card.

She’s only been at school for less than a month. So far she’s planned her classes (with her advisor), bought her own books, joined clubs without asking me which ones did I think she should join, ordered her meds and picked them up, fixed her bike, rescued a turtle, impressed her biology professor with her immense entomological knowledge, learned that she doesn’t know everything and there is still a lot to learn, come face to face with the fact that as amazing as she is, there is stiff competition in the world.

The first week was really frustrating for her. The second week, I had to threaten to drag her ass home if she didn’t get her shit together. By the third week, it was like watching a bean start to sprout. At first, there is just dirt, with no hint of what lies beneath, but a few days later, a tiny sprig of green starts to peak out from amongst the brown. Then all of a sudden, there is an explosion of growth as that tiny sprig starts to unfurl, and leaves begin to stretch.

It was a terrifying thing to contemplate sending my daughter so far away. As thrilled as she was, she was just as nervous. Ron, ever the optimist, kept waiting for the worst. But *I* knew that Mount Holyoke was exactly where Aubrey needed to be, and where she could become the person she was meant to become. So although she is 2000 miles away, her boyfriend dumped her because she chose to leave, she knew no one on campus when she got there and the closest family friend is 90 minutes away, it has been the most exciting part of being her mom to watch her growing from a teen with a spunky attitude into a young woman of depth, self-confidence, strength, and character. And THAT is all on her.

“And that’s all on you, feeling helpless if she asked for help, or scared you’d have to change yourself
And you can’t deny this room will keep you warm. You can look out of your window at the storm.
But you watch the phone and hope it rings. You’ll take her any way she sings, or how she calls.
The beauty of the rain…
Is how it falls, how it falls, how it falls.”



This ain’t goodbye…

I started this the night before we left for Connecticut. I could lie and say we’ve been soooo busy, but in reality, we’ve just been relaxing and enjoying life in Leigh’s house, even without electricity, running water, showers, or internet. Either way, here’s my last mommy rant before my daughter leaves for college.

Procrastination runs long and hard in this house, and I fully expected there would be some arguments over what should go and what should stay. Indeed, packing is as much the nightmare as I expected. It’s like having a two year old who wants to wear her ballerina halloween costume to the Valentine’s Day party. No, you may NOT take your rattiest, dog hair covered clothes, even if you think they’ll be warm, and if they are covered in dog hair, don’t tell me they are clean.

Silk is the best bottom layer, with cotton a close second. Thin acrylic sweaters are not going to make the cut. Yes, I will let you take some of your formals, but you are not taking the wedding gown. Where are your boots? What do you mean you don’t know? I’ve only been asking you for the last two weeks to gather your stuff together. Yes, I know you want to take your stilletos, but I can ship them, so quit wasting time trying to find them. I thought you said you had pajamas. These are Texas pajamas, not Massachusetts pajamas, and there’s only one pair in here. Are you really going to wear the same pair of pajamas every day for an entire semester? DON’T answer that.

I know it is hot outside, but yes, you ARE wearing your coat on the plane. They don’t weigh you, just your luggage, so if it goes over 50lbs, it’s going home with your dad. Yes, I know you’ve been to Colorado and stood at the top of the windy staircase, and you played on an ice field. I know you spent three days in New York City in a February, and yes, I know it “snowed.” But you haven’t LIVED at the top of the windy staircase for four months, and it’s not snow when you can’t see your hand in front of your face. That’s a blizzard. Remember the campus closed down twice this spring, due to blizzards? Guess what. Those people LIVE there, and it was still too much for them to deal with. These are people with proper clothing, proper equipment, and extraneous body fat.

You will have a good coat, excellent gloves, and the best boots available, but even if you gain the freshman 15, you still won’t have any extraneous body fat. You’re freezing here when I turn the air down to 75 and the fan is on. Do you think you are magically going to become warmer when you move just shy of Canada? CAN-A-DA. Where it is cold all but two weeks out of the year.

Yes, you’ll use all of those tights. However, were you planning on wearing anything over them? One ratty pair of jeans and a cheap pair of corduroys? The velour pants are great, as long as you don’t intend to leave your dorm. That will make it difficult to attend class, don’t you think? And yes, people do go to class, even when it is 0 degrees outside. I know you’ll acclimate, but it takes more than a couple of months. Acclimation still assumes proper clothing.

You may take your skirts, but do not try to wear them once the temperature drops below freezing. I know, you have tights. If you wear all forty pair at once, you may also wear a skirt. Yes, you can wear your wool dress. A dress is just like a skirt? No, it’s different. Your wool dress is made of wool, and it’s knitted. Your skirts are thin rayon, and woven. Don’t roll your eyes at me. When your thighs freeze together, you’ll be sorry.

Did you pack your makeup, hair dryer, curling iron? I know you’re not a party girl. I know you’re not going to date anyone ever again, or at least not for two whole years. That’s not why I’m asking. It’s rather difficult to get dressed up for a modeling call if your makeup and hair supplies are in Texas. No, we are not just buying new stuff when we get there. We just bought this stuff. Don’t forget to moisturize. Fine, don’t moisturize, and when your cheeks fall off, I’ll just say I told you so.

Do you have all of your prescriptions and your medical records? I realize Walgreens can just transfer the prescriptions, but the closest one is three miles away, in a different town. I don’t doubt that you can walk six miles. I agree that you’ll make friends with people who have cars. Let’s talk about this whole blizzard thing one more time. Roads close. Stores close. Pharmacies close. You can snowshoe six miles roundtrip if you’d like, but it won’t do you any good when no one else felt like snowshoeing to work. However, you can snowshoe to the school infirmary and I guarantee there will be someone there.

Don’t buy your books on campus without checking online first. Yes, I know they rent textbooks. Did you know that they only rent textbooks for approximately fifteen classes, only one of which you might actually take this semester? I promise I will try to get you a tablet, but I cannot guarantee that all of your books will be e-pubbed, so yes, you do need a backpack. And a purse. Did you pack a purse? Go get a purse. Get the black purse. It goes with everything and slings over your shoulder.

Remember, do not go to parties at Amherst or Hampshire. Do you not remember the designer acid in “Death at a Funeral”? Unless you want to wake up naked on top of a house screaming that everything is too green, stay away from frat parties. Always take a designated sober sister, just like in “Greek.” Yes, the show you refused to watch with me. The sober sister is like the designated driver. She’s there to make sure you don’t wake up naked next to the ugly guy from your chem class that smells like boiled cabbage. Friends don’t let friends sleep with ugly, smelly, cabbage guys, no matter how smart they are.

Don’t drink out of an open container. Hold your hand over the top of your glass at all times. Get a new drink if yours leaves your sight. It’s like the warnings at the airport. You don’t know what someone may put in them when you aren’t looking. Don’t think that because the party is in your dorm that you’re safer than if you were at a frat house. Someone can still put something in your drink, no matter where you are.

ALWAYS let someone know where you are going, with whom you are going, and when you’ll be back. If no one is around, leave a note, send a text, or post it on facebook if you have to. If there’s a natural disaster, the campus needs to know where you are. Yes, I mean like a blizzard, smart ass. I also mean like a shooting, a bombing, a terrorist attack. Okay, those aren’t natural disasters, but you know exactly what I mean.

Most importantly, even if you forget everything I’ve said, your thighs freeze together, you wake up naked smelling like boiled cabbage, you get frostbite, you get a D in chem because you have to spend the rest of the semester avoiding cabbage guy, and you get lost in a blizzard thereby causing emergency services to have to go looking for you, never never never forget that I love you more than life itself.

“This ain’t goodbye, This is just where love goes
When words aren’t warm enough to keep away the cold
This ain’t goodbye, It’s not where our story ends
But I know you can’t be mine, not the way you’ve always been
As long as we’ve got time, Then this ain’t goodbye”