There was a time when sending my oldest son back to school was met with a big sigh of relief. He was a bright boy with a fierce independent streak that kept me constantly, relentlessly, on my toes. He was a boy in constant motion, both physically and mentally. "Back to school-Finally!" I would think, as I ran behind him trying to keep him in sight on our way to school.
Today, my daughters and I drove him to school and helped him move his stuff into the house where he'll be staying this fourth year at UVA. It was hot-105 degrees-which is what I attributed my sour mood to. We arrived to find a huge jumble of dirty clothes, old papers and miscellaneous oddities dumped in the middle of his supposedly vacant room. The girls and I spent half an hour tossing the mess in bags and boxes and carting it out so we could cart his stuff in. My mood darkened. After lunch, where we cooled down considerably, we made the trek to Target and Wal-mart for the amenities needed for non-dorm living.
Waiting in line at the grocery store, he turned to me and said, "Mom, I feel as anxious as I did my first year here. Why do you think that is?" I felt my chest clutch and with sudden clarity, I realized that this year was his last back-to-school in my care. " It's your last year of college. Endings can be as stressful as beginnings," I said. He nodded and said, "Yeah, I think that's it." He hugged me, right in the grocery store check-out line.
A thunderstorm had begun when we returned to his house to deliver the stuff we had bought. We all grabbed things and ran from van to house, house to van. I offered to help him set things up, but he was anxious for us to go. His girlfriend was arriving later tonight and she would help him get his room set up. "Well, thanks for everything guys," he said as he stood at the door ushering us out. Quick hugs and the girls and I ran from the house to the van. I was glad to have the rain running down my face to camouflage the tears; my girls would think I'm nuts. I felt silly, ambushed by the unexpected momentousness of this seemingly routine event. Back to school, finally.