So this is what it has come down to – sporadic 8 minute conversations with my daughter on Skype or Facetime. After seventeen years in the same house, your relationship is radically condensed. You raise your children to be independent, self-sufficient, and it turns out that they actually are, aside from the checkbook. Thing 1 is happy, well-adjusted, and loving her new life at Johns Hopkins. There have been no hysterical phone calls in the middle of the night, no panicked texts. I am assuming this means that her father and I did our jobs as parents … but cutting the umbilical cord the first time was much, much easier. (Among other things, I did not have to do it.) That silent bedroom taunts me, asking me if/how I am going to convert the space.
The learning curve for college drop off is steep. First, let me just say that all those orientation activities for parents to attend are all for organized parents. Domestic parents. Parents who have driven in with their childrens’ bedrooms and do not have to recreate one from scratch and two pieces of 50 pound luggage. We did not attend a single activity as parents, besides the initial coffee. We had to return to Target instead.
Target, during a college dorm move in, looks like a picked over landscape, parents scavenging like vultures for that case of water (hurricane coming), bedside lamp, or curtain rod and curtain to help block out what light the dorm room blinds do not. It is not the Target I know. My only comfort came from seeing other parents making the same trek. It does beg the question, “What can you live without?”
For setting up the dorm room, especially if you are an expat, is a splurge I equate with the modern day dowry. (If only people today gave as much thought and research to their future spouse as they do to the university they attend!). It is important that your child have a stocked medical chest, two sets of sheets, two towels, and enough underwear to get through a week or ten days. Then there are the items one shares. In Thing 1’s case, her roommate brought the fridge, she brought the printer, and the suitemate, a beauty pageant teen queen from Arkansas, not only bought the router but she set it up. All of this takes time and money – for the first time parent, well, nothing quite prepares you.
The parameters on the family’s life have forever shifted; the earthquake we felt in Baltimore was minor in comparison. I had been in deep denial before this moment, progressing through the family chores during the summer. Now back in Madrid, I am just rather numb, feasting on books like I am dining at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Life is akimbo and until I/we get used to it, there is nothing I can do, except process it little by little each day and play Scrabble after dinner. Re-entry is bad enough but this is just an extra layer of glum until the routine of the “new normal” sets in.
One final thought, unrelated: yesterday at church, the Gospel was Matthew 18:21-35.
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”*
In the Anglican church, the readings repeat every three years with little variation, marching to the calendar based on the liturgical seasons, intent on drumming into one the most important messages. I am quite sure the hijackers did not consult the calendar ten years in advance. They did not anticipate that the tenth anniversary would fall on a Sunday and that the message would be forgiveness. And therein lies the true victory. I’ll keep working at it.
Thanks to Mood Ring Momma, Nittany Kitten, and Stephanie for sustaining my banquet of books. Here is what I’ve read lately:
When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box – John Ortberg. Soul food.
Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story – Sue Monk Kidd & Ann Kidd Taylor. Soul searching.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot. Soul defining, on a cellular level. Awesome.
Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art – Madeleine L’Engle. A reverberating ripple in time.
The Last Stand of Major Pettigrew – Helen Simonson. Dry, wry humor – dessert for the brain. Absolutely hilarious. If I had money, I would buy the movie rights.
Origin – Diana Abu-Jaber. Overly prosey mystery.
State of Wonder – Ann Patchett. Surprisingly did not relish as much as I thought I would.
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin – Erik Larson. An absolute must read.
* Also interpreted as seventy times seven. Wow.