Moments become milestones in retrospect

Of course there’s a lot of knowledge in universities: the freshmen bring a little in; the seniors don’t take much away, so knowledge sort of accumulates.


– Abbott Lawrence Lowell


The nest is empty.

We took our only child to college last week.

Yep. Drove eight hours round trip through three rainstorms to unload two carloads of necessities, clothes and computer gear in humidity that would frizz hair on a cueball.

We (OK, I) had crammed enough provisions into the Kirby Conestogas to survive the Oregon Trail, the Mayflower voyage and two trips up Mount Everest.

When we got to the college town, it started raining again and the only spot I could find was at the far
corner of the parking lot with a close view of a cornfield and a faraway view of the front door.

Oh, and did I mention that our young scholar had been assigned a dorm room on the top floor … at the end of the hall away from the elevator and stairwell?

Did I also mention that about 800 other families were moving in their freshmen at the same time?

With the rain, the crowds and all the young people, I kept thinking of Woodstock.

Of course, several people seemed to make a family excursion of the move-in event. They brought younger brothers and sisters who seemed to fulfill their function by carrying a paper towel roll up to their older sibling’s dorm room.

Others brought grandmothers in wheelchairs, whose mission seemed to be to ride the elevators and stop in the hallways every 10 feet or so to look around and try to remember why someone thought their attendance was a good idea.

I kept thinking of that scene from the movie Titanic when the boat is sinking and everyone is jamming down hallways and surging up stairwells and looking around for loved ones.

It was all LOUD, chaotic, stressful, confusing, REALLY LOUD, humid, sweaty, distracting, VERY LOUD and actually pretty fun.

The parents had a good time. Well, most of them.

The hallways were full of dads in ball caps and sweat-soaked T-shirts cracking jokes with the other dads, while the mothers fussed and flustered and buzzed about in the rooms.

Gradually, I came to the conclusion that this was all by design.

Without this considerable distraction, a lot of parents would be standing around hugging and weeping and worrying about leaving their child alone and driving away.

By the time we had everything out of the cars (five trips with the over-stacked little luggage dolly I had borrowed from a neighbor) and jammed into his room and put away (with lots of parental room-decorating suggestions), the old folks were ready to go home and the young people were ready to wave goodbye.

This feeling, I might add, wore off 20 minutes up the road.

It’s to be expected when you take your heart and drop it off someplace else.