Saying Hello

21 Aug

In a few days, my husband and I will remove the third row seating from our aging 1998 Toyota Sienna minivan – the one with a dented back bumper that never got fixed – and fill it with our daughter’s worldly possessions. All summer long, my daughter and I have been consulting shopping lists for college, and buying online and in the stores. I feel that I have been doing my patriotic duty by patronizing retailers and propping up the anemic US economy. No wonder back-to-school season is second to Christmas season in sales; sometimes it does feel like Christmas around here as packages arrive almost daily from UPS and the postal service.

After packing up the minivan and hoping that everything will fit, we will then drive her to her new life as a freshman at Barnard College in New York City. It will be an arduous trip, fighting through 30 miles of congested highways and crumbling city streets, to arrive at the hallowed halls of higher learning in upper Manhattan, a journey of an hour that was four years in the making. Upon arriving, we will help her move in, get settled, meet her roommates and their parents, and attend some college-sponsored events. When the clock strikes 4, it will be time for us to say goodbye.

It will also be time to say hello – hello to letting go as a parent, hello to trusting that 18 years of parenting, of instilling values and shaping her character will now stand her in good stead. Hello to believing that she will find her way around her new environment just fine, that when problems and issues arise (which they inevitably will), she will figure out how to resolve them, to know where and when to reach out for assistance, and to learn to manage her expectations. It will be saying hello to letting her make decisions so that she gains confidence from good ones and learns from not-so-good ones.

I don’t know how I will react then. I want to be dignified and clear-eyed and not dissolve into a wet mush of salty tears and snot. When my parents dropped me off 33 years ago, my mother sobbed all the way home from Philadelphia to New York, so distressing my father that he made many wrong turns and got hopelessly lost.

I am excited for her, for the new experiences and opportunities that lie ahead. I am hoping that if I concentrate and focus hard enough on what is good for her, then any sadness at her leaving will not threaten to overwhelm me.

That’s my plan for now.


4 Responses to “Saying Hello”

  1. Janet Holmes at 4:23 PM #

    Congratulations to you all on reaching this momentous time in your lives. God go with you.

  2. Jill at 7:48 PM #

    I hope it goes well when you drop her off. It’s hard to believe that the years have flown by and she’s going to college. I wish you well on that not crying part because I couldn’t even stop from tearing up on Sunday when you told me. I choked up and hugged her when I wanted to wish her well but I couldn’t get the words out.

  3. Seth Freeman at 10:32 AM #

    A fine entry, Wanchee, about a poignant and profound moment. Way back when a child left home on her wedding day, a moment that usually has much ritual and ceremony to mark such a major transition. I think we need ceremony for milestone moments like a child leaving home. (We probably don’t need them for 6th grade graduation.) The weirdness of marking such a moment with a hug and a car door slam is one of the oddities of our culture, I reckon, and your post nicely captures the swirl of emotions that await on that day- emotions that will find expression one way or another, as your parents demonstrated. When we took Carol back to Penn I remember feeling like we were plopping a duckling into the water and watching her paddle off. Even then I felt the poignancy of the moment, and not a little sad. But as I once heard it said, “when we must say, ‘there she goes,’ someone else is saying, ‘here she comes.’ And one of the people who said ‘here she comes’ to Carol was you, for which I’m very, very glad. Here’s to your daughter being well-received in her new world, to her finding her own Wanchees and Carols, and to your and Ben’s transition too. We’ll be following your path sooner than we can imagine.

  4. Nancy Slugaski at 10:11 PM #

    Hi Wanchee,

    Marcia R. forwarded your blog to me – it was so beautiful, so “right on” as Frank and I face the SAME emotions as we let Cara go off to college, also! You have a wonderful way of expressing our emotions!!

    Let’s catch up via e-mail, when we can.

    Nancy S.

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