The Launch: A College Drop-off Story

I wake up extra early the morning my babies move to Oregon.

It’s a big day. The biggest.

Jack’s car waits in the garage with all of his things and all of Karly’s things (and a gap for visibility in the back window).

They plan to hit the road by 6:45 to make the drive to Eugene, 14-ish hours with a pit stop at Santa Clara to visit a friend.

It’s still dark when they say goodbye to the dogs.

Bill, who has to leave for work, hugs Karly and then Jack. He says, “I love you so, so much.” The kids hug him back and I almost cry.

But Jack says, “Yeah….See you tomorrow.”

Then we all laugh because Bill and I are flying up the next day to meet them. No need to be dramatic.

I ready my phone as Jack starts the car.

Record.

Before they’ve left the garage, I get a Cannot Take Video message. No available storage.

Also, I’m holding my phone the wrong way.

(These things are metaphors for my parenting.)

I wave and call out to them as they drive away, tell myself this is better.

You’re in the moment, soaking it up instead of watching through a lens.

They turn the corner and I return inside. Sit on the couch.

Alone.

The news is on, the world happening in the background, but my own huge thoughts shrink everything else.

I reflect on the years since I left teaching, an almost-decade during which I planned to WRITE NOVELS! and MOTHER MY KIDS!

(Wouldn’t I be the BEST at this, with so much time for healthy cooking and family exercise, not to mention all my classroom volunteering?)

In reality at least one person didn’t like the dinner I’d made, and our most consistent routine wasn’t exercise; it was watching TV.

At least we did that right, selecting shows we agreed on (which meant Survivor and Amazing Race at first; then Dexter and Breaking Bad).

Our choices were about the four of us.

But now there will be only two of us here.

We did it, I think. And I cry hard.

Like, all day long. Hard.

Moving in and out of the kids’ rooms, I empty garbage cans, sweep dust bunnies, fold the remnants of clothes spilling from their closets. Left behind.

Cue more crying.

I feel hollowed out and I can’t even talk about it. A friend invites me over for wine (because HEY! you can do that now that the kids are gone, not that I didn’t already do that) and I walk inside her house and blurt, “I CAN’T TALK ABOUT IT!” before she can ask me how I’m doing.

The next day Bill and I fly to Oregon to make sure Jack is settled in his apartment with his three roommates (friends he knows are great), and Karly’s settled in her dorm with her new roommate (who turns out to be great).

We stay three days to make sure the greatness takes.

Our children indulge us in family selfies, let us treat them to restaurant meals. No one complains about my cooking and we don’t watch TV. We talk and laugh and I try not to think about leaving.

The time is marvelous and over too quickly.

Bill and I know we probably won’t visit Oregon again this year. Two college tuitions don’t come cheap.

Will it be three months before we see our children again?

Really?

Bill treats me gently while we travel home. I am fragile and weepy. Walking glass.

For several days we wander around the house shell-shocked. We did this last year after Jack left. We’re pretty sure it will pass. And it does.

Mostly.

We FaceTime with the kids and they seem happy.

This is what we’ve worked for. What we wanted. (Just maybe not so soon, maybe not yet; but we couldn’t stop time, even though we tried.)

Karly and her roommate visit Jack’s apartment. He walks them back at the end of the night so they’ll be safe.

He is a good man, a good brother.

Karly loves him, loves her new friends.

She sends me a picture from a tattoo shop. (didn’t get one mom just here for support)

I ask Jack for a picture and he sends one from his room. (studying now going out later)

I text back using too many emojis.

I miss them so, so much. But they’re okay.

We’re okay.

The sink fills with pairs of coffee mugs and dishes. There’s too much food in the fridge and little laundry. We watch what we want on TV.

These are good times. Different times.

Our family’s had some of our best days already.

More best days lie ahead.

I believe it.

I count the weeks until Jack and Karly will be home on an old-school paper calendar.

While they are here, I’ll try to make the meals everyone likes, and we’ll watch The Office together, and there will be too much laundry and not enough food in the fridge, and then

they’ll be gone again.

Until next time.


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14 thoughts on “The Launch: A College Drop-off Story

  1. Laurel Janssen Byrne

    Beautiful mascara wrecker

  2. “More best days lie ahead. I believe it.”

    So much this. Every chapter I start in this crazy life, I think that. Your babies are beautiful, and strong, and so, so loved. What a thing to be able to say. And you have Bill. And your dogs. And adventures together that maybe your heart was saving until they wouldn’t exclude your wonderful kids. I can’t quite imagine being in your shoes just yet, but I’ll get there whether I like it or not, and I will come back to this when my heart is hurting. More best days lie ahead.

    Love you (and your people, though they don’t know me from poor over-referenced Adam)!

  3. Diane

    I loved when you walked into my house for that glass of wine and told me that you couldn’t talk about it then, but that we would talk about it on our walk the next morning. We talked and walked, well I walked and Scout pulled! You are moving forward in a terrific way and I’m so proud of you. I’m always here with wine and comfort. XXXOOO

  4. In contrast to Cameron’s comment, the line that gutted me was this: “Our family’s had some of our best days already.” So….I’m not sure what that says about my outlook on life? Please advise. 😉

  5. Oh gosh, I’ve been there. Reading your post brought some bittersweet tears. I’m mushy that way about my kids. However, my friend, just you wait! So much ahead for your babies and you and your hubs. Graduations. New jobs. New perspectives and maturing relationships. Engagements. Weddings!! And the cherry on top of the empty-nest cake?? Grand babies!! ❤️ Good stuff ahead! Such good stuff.

  6. Waaaaaaa! My heart can’t take it.

  7. Oof. I’ll be there soon. You raised two beautiful, independent kids. You have a lot to be proud of and a lot to look forward to that’s coming down the pike. Plus GO DUCKS.

  8. I can’t take it. Parenting success can be so heartbreaking. Luckily, I still have many years that I can try and hold onto. Then this. But. I’ll be much older than you are when I go through this. So. There’s that. Where’s the wine?

  9. Julie Watson

    Oh, lady. Tears.

  10. NannyK

    He walked them back to the dorm that night??? For the LOVE!! My niece and nephew are everything AWESOME!!❤❤❤. Well played, Julie & Bill…well played!

  11. Oh, Julie. Your tears became my tears. Laurel is right – mascara wrecker for sure. You’ve done your job, mama. Of course it’s never over, but this is what we do right? From day one. Teach them how to spread their wings and fly. Well done, mama. And remember, I’m one of (so) many here with open arms (and wine). xoxo

  12. Bailey

    This really pulls on the heart strings like all your posts about your children. Trying to remind my sleep-deprived mind that the sleepless nights won’t be forever and this day will come for our family too.

  13. I still say if your kids appreciated your readers they’d let you share the texting lessons with a good emoji dictionary. 😉 Seriously though, this is such a sweet post even though there are tears. I admire your relationship with your kids and home mine stays like that when they’re older.

  14. Well done! You did it! Your kids are doing so well- be proud!

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