Monday, August 14, 2023

He's Off

We caravanned up to Tempe on Friday, Amster and I in my UV followed by Messers 20 and 18 in the youngest one's vehicle, a third hand Infiniti that has carted both his mother and brother around town.  We were taking our baby to college.

Amster asked me to drive so that she could cry.  I was flattered to be included but she scoffed, reminding me that we were all in this raising the kids thing together.  She's created a family of neighbors and friends to replace the fractured one created when Husband #1 was banished from the scene.  Her boys have a collection of men of all ages, talents, abilities, and strengths on whom they can rely.  There are moms all over town who will feed them without question, just as their kids know that Amster's kitchen (and extra bedroom) are always available.

But I'm the only faux grandma in the bunch and I relish the title.  I put it to good use on Friday.

The line of students waiting to register at his apartment complex was easy to find; parking was another story entirely.  I secured a place in line.  Amster parked the UV in an open lot around the corner.  She and Mr. 20 sat in air-conditioned comfort while Mr. 18 and I waited in line.

Little Cuter was right when she told her high school counselor that the advantage of attending a big school is that yes, there are lines, and you meet people in lines.  

We were in a sea of gorgeous, blonde, long legged, pony tailed young women, wearing brightly colored, very short, skin tight clothing.  Mr. 18 had a very big smile on his face, then looked at me, somewhat abashed.  I reassured him that while I could not understand how they were comfortable in those get-ups, I totally understood them.  I told him this:
I had a one piece, sleeveless, blue cotton romper with what pretended to be shorts at the bottom.  I wore it to pick TBG up at LaGuardia one summer afternoon.  As G'ma kissed me goodbye (and made sure I had food and drink in case I got lost or the world ended) she left me with two thoughts.  You look gorgeous.  Don't bend over.
While waiting for the first step in the process, we struck up a conversation with the people in front of us, another freshman, an exchange student from Austria, chaperoned by family friends.  While the other woman and I were on our phones, communicating with those who needed tending, the kids were getting along famously.  

She loved how friendly Americans are; in Austria, everyone would be standing, silently, facing ahead.  She didn't know her roommates, though she knew more about hers than Mr. 18 did about his.  They went on like that, reminding me of myself 50+ years ago, and of the people I met on my very first day.  

I was lost in reminiscence until I heard her ask  How old are you? and his honest reply, 18. The air went out of their balloon as she replied to his and you? with 22.  They continued chatting as the line moved on, but there would be no chance for romance.

It felt like a NYTimes Metropolitan Diary snippet.  I paused to take it in.  

Looking around, I was astonished to see actual face to face conversations. The only people who were on their phones were actually using them as phones, giving directions, updating progress, sharing necessary information.  No one was scrolling.  Everyone was engaged in what was happening right in front of them.  No one was immortalizing the moment in pictures; there were no selfies.  

And I realized that there, in the sun, in the heat, in the slowly moving line, I was surrounded by people who were truly present in the moment.  As we moved from station to station, the pattern didn't change.  

I have given up worrying about the next generation.  I spent Friday surrounded by young people who were focused on the task at hand, who were willing to help one another, who waited patiently without complaint (or scrolling) as life went on, not around them, but with them.

I'm so glad she asked me to go with her.



  1. Ahh, that time of year. I remember being the crying mom so long ago now.

    1. The same scene is being reenacted here in Bloomington. Freshman move-in was yesterday, along with a few latecomers today and tomorrow. I am very glad to be hiding at home! I do remember Little Cuter met SIR during her freshman move into the dorm.

  2. I'm so glad you could be a part of the college drop-off. You remind us all of good college times. It's been 23 years since our daughter graduated from college, but those years were so wonderful, taking her to and picking her up from college in another state. In four years our granddaughter will be starting that adventure.


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