It’s odd to feel excitement and sorrow at the same time.
Last week I did what hundreds of parents will do or have done at this time of the year around the country. I took my daughter to college. I took her there and then turned around and left her, knowing it could be weeks, maybe months before I see her again.
“Are you going to cry?” she asked me back in July. There was a smirk on her face. I decided not to give her the satisfaction.
“As much as you get on my nerves why would I miss you?”
In August she said she wanted her paternal Aunt to make the long drive with us because she didn’t want me to drive back alone, knowing how broken up I will be she surmised. In the end her aunt making the journey with us came in handy; it was another car to pile all of Cricket’s belongings into.
This is a time that every good parent aims and prepares for as soon as your child comes into the world, the day the child becomes an adult then goes off to make their own way in the world. You don’t expect it to come so fast. When they are babies you are in a rush for them to get to certain milestones: first tooth, first time turing over, first time crawling, pulling themselves up, standing up, then walking , running and talking. It’s exciting to see your baby do all these things but, especially for first time parents, its for the relief. You think, my baby is crawling at five months, he’s normal. You’re worrying about key development points until one day you realize they aren’t that baby anymore, or that toddler, of that little kid or that teen. You’re too busy living life that you don’t get to realize that the moment with that person is never going to come again.
You can take pictures or videos but its not the same; reliving it is never as good as the first time or the 25th time in your head.
The week before we walked by the elementary school, just about the time the kindergarten was letting out for the half day break. I was in awe of how tiny the kids were in comparison to Cricket. The children were giddy and energetic, running towards their parents, ready to be lead home. I pointed them out to Cricket and she looked at me, again with a smirk and a shake of her head. Signaling her maturity, she walks ahead of me. She doesn’t need me to lead her anywhere anymore, she knows her way.
On the road Cricket was in charge of making sure we received a steady stream of NPR and keeping out the dreaded country music. I went the speed limit, much to the ire of the traffic behind me which included my daughter’s aunt. From time to time I went over things I thought she would want to do once we got there.
“I’m not dumb,” she said. “I know what to.”
“I know you know, but sometimes people just need a reminder.” She sighed.
It’s odd to think that labels that were once active verbs about me are now just passive nouns. I parent my daughter and mothering a teen. Now I’m the mother of a young woman. I’m a parent with a kid in college. You can’t really “parent” from hundreds of miles away. I basically worked myself out of a job.
I wonder what it was like for my great grandmother. She watched my grandmother leave pack up and leave with her husband and youngest child 70 years ago to follow the Southern Migration and move to Cincinnati. I wonder what she said to her. I wonder if she worried about her or if she resented the freedom of her youth. I wonder if she regretted letting her leave five years later when she and my great grandfather had to travel to Cincinnati to bury my grandmother.
I suspect my grandmother never regretted leaving the south, although she did have pangs of guilt in leaving my aunt behind. I suspect she probably worked herself too hard, for too long to take care of her family and bills. She probably didn’t realize what she had was tuberculosis until it was too late and she was too sick. That is the hubris of youth that afflicts all of us at one time in our lives.
I saw it in my daughter as she waited impatiently for us to leave. She had a scholarship meeting to attend, she said. She wanted me to get back home before dark, she explained. But I also knew she wanted to begin her life of being a college student; she wanted to explore the town and flirt with guys without worrying her watchful mother was lurking nearby.
I offer to drive her to the building on the other side of the campus. She balks but then gives in because of the oppressive heat. As she gets out the car I hand her the note book of an incomplete four page letter telling her about her matrilineal grandmothers, my hopes and dreams for her college career and how proud I am to have her as my daughter.
“Okay, thanks,” she takes the notebook looking at it warily. “You don’t want me to read it now, do you?”
“No, read it later, then call me so we can talk about the end of the letter I didn’t get a chance to write.”
She looked doubtful and I could tell it could be days before she needed to call me. “Yeah, okay.”
Then she hugged me. I remembered holding a little baby I used to carry everywhere because she would cry when I put her down. The little girl who said both of our names was Jah Jah because she thought we were the same person. The 13 year old who would still climb into my bed when a bad storm hit. Now she’s a young lady ready to take on the world as long as nothing too pressing happens before 10 am.
I kiss her cheek and let her go.
Off she runs taking hundreds of black women with her. She doesn’t look back as I pull off, leaving her behind. I don’t shed a tear.