Sunday, August 12, 2012

We're here

We’re here. It’s the morning after we’ve moved Becca into her dorm -- the first time she’s left home -- and my head is filled with what that means to her and what it was like for me 40 years ago when I did the same thing.

She’s a little nervous, understandably, but so ready to take this next big step into what her life will become after childhood; she’s thoughtful and excited about what choices she gets to make. I, on the other hand, had no beginning jitters that I can remember, which doesn’t seem possible as I watch both of my daughters prepare, but I think it was true. There had to be some apprehension about taking such a big step – leaving home to go to school in a city I didn’t know (I grew up outside Manhattan and I was going to school in Philadelphia) – but I think it was minimal and plays no part in my memories.

For me, it was all excitement about what was to come. I was, perhaps, more ready to leave. I grew up going into New York on a regular basis, raised by a mother who revered the city and who constantly encouraged me to want what that city could offer. My daughters have lived their early lives in a small, idyllic and somewhat parochial town by the ocean. But despite their apprehension, I think they are both ready for more. Like my mother I have encouraged them to look beyond our small town, lovely as it is. They have so much to offer. They will thrive out in the larger world.

My nervousness comes now, as I face life without children in my house on a day-to-day basis. I have put being a mother first - sometimes imperfectly, but always most importantly -- for 30 years. My son was born in 1982 and my girls in 1993. Parenting has been my favorite and hardest job. I know it never ends. I will always worry if they’re alright, even if they are 30 or older, but it will no longer be my daily job. I have been concerned about what comes next for me. For the first time in 30 years, I get to be that girl again, that girl on the threshold, full of excitement about what is to come.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Being ready

Packing for college is a complicated procedure, especially when it involves sorting the contents of a room you've lived in since you were in Kindergarten.

It might not seem organized, but it is. And it has to fit into the car.

In the rain.

With a delirious puppy.

And then, a few hours later, you find yourself in a familiar motel in Rhinebeck, and you know that tomorrow you'll open the door into an unfamiliar world that's full of possibility. Your stomach might hurt a little, and you might be a little scared, but you're ready.

• • •

When I made the trip from home, in the suburbs of Washington DC, to college in Philadelphia on that September day in 1972, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. Why had I done this? What made me think art school was a good idea? Could we just go home now? Wait. Maybe I'll stay. I'll have to stay; I went through a lot to get here. I'm supposed to stay. I guess I'm ready.

Judy, I think, was ready. She was determined to grab the doorknob and open the door. She's always been that way, and I saw it the minute I met her.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The preparations

When Judy and I arrived at college, we didn't bring much with us. We've been trying to remember details, but well, it was forty years ago...

I came with the patchwork spread my mother had made me in high school. She'd cut squares from the fabric left over from many of the dresses she'd made for me, my sisters, and herself. Judy had a brand new bedspread, a heavy woven cotton fabric in blues and blue-greens. It turns out that these two items made big impressions on both of us: I loved the colors and stylishness of hers, and she liked that mine was hand made.

Other than those two things, we packed light. Judy had sheets from home; I'd signed up for the college linen service. I still remember those rough bleached sheets and skimpy towels. She had a brand new hamper that survived well into her son Michael's childhood (he just turned 30). I brought a few things like my red Tensor lamp, a little desk book stand, and my snazzy alarm clock with the burnt orange face (it was the '70's, you know). Both of us packed our favorite books.

Times have changed in forty years. The other day we took the girls and their best friend on a college stuff shopping trip. We started out with a quick meal at Panera. We had to have the strength for what was ahead.

Then we stopped at Best Buy for the fastest two-printer purchase on record. After that, we stormed Bed Bath & Beyond. It was almost 9:00, and the store closed at 9:30. Becca and Rachel (or their mother) had a long list, and everything needed to be purchased in twos. We went into overdrive, which involved a lot of talking and gesturing, a little confusion, and some very quick decisions.

After about 20 minutes, all that was left to do was make the final choices on sheets. The cart looked like this:

And the wall of sheets looked like this:

We made it to the cash register at just about 9:30.

In 1972, going to college seemed to be a simpler proposition. There were no mega-stores with walls of sheets and dorm must-haves. There were no smartphones for texting photos to your mother (as Best Friend did when she found the comforter set of her dreams). There were no decisions to be made about renting versus buying a mini-fridge.

Did we just pack some boxes and go, or did our mothers have lists and worries? Did we?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

At the other end of the road

Rebecca & Rachel: The Remarkable R's

It dawned on us, on Judy and me, that our 40th year of friendship was remarkable in another way, too. We met each other on the day we began our lives as college students, and now, 40 years later, we're preparing to launch Judy's daughters on their own new lives as college students.

Rachel and Rebecca are 18 years old, so they've been a part of this friendship for nearly half of its existence. And they've spent a good part of that time in a car with us. We drove them to sleep when they were babies. We had adventures, trips to Maryland, drives "up island" to shop, excursions to Montauk and the Walking Dunes. We traveled to Western Massachusetts to see Hancock Shaker Village, their brother Michael along for the adventure. We've done errands, gone shopping, and just driven around.

The four of us must have spent thousands of hours together in the car, just going someplace.

But by far our favorite road trips have been the treks we make every year to the Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck. We began to go when the R's were still in diapers, and before long it was A Tradition.

When we get in the car on that third Friday afternoon in October, we settle in, begin our treasured routine. We laugh, the girls pretend they'd rather listen to music, we think we're going to make a wrong turn on our way to the Saw Mill River Parkway. We are comfortable, happy, excited to be together and having this adventure again.

We love it so much that every year, as we turn to head home, we're planning what we'll do next year. And every year, Judy and I are a little surprised, somewhat relieved, and extremely happy that the girls still love it as much as we do.

So here we are, getting ready for another kind of road trip. Come August we're going to pack the car, not once but twice, and deliver these Most Remarkable young women to their new schools, where — who knows? — they just might meet their new best friends.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The beginning

Philadelphia, PA, September 1972 —

Judy: "Hi."
Jane: "Hi."

A humble beginning for two people who haven't stopped talking since. The on-going conversation.