Last week I came upon a Twitter post that said, “It’s a triumph for all involved. And it’s one of the saddest moments of your life.” Before I even read the column the post linked to, I knew what it would be about.
And sending a child off.
I left for college 15 years ago today.
I couldn’t have been more excited to go.
High school wasn’t particularly fun for me. I mean, it was better than seventh and eighth grades — could those years have been worse for any girl? — but it just wasn’t a good time, most of the time. Too many of my friends were actually frenemies (that’s not to say I was the best friend to them). There was the short-lived, but intense, bout with anorexia. I may have been the worst field hockey player, ever. And I fought with my parents all the time.
By the time the summer of 1996 rolled around, I’d pretty much worked out most of what I hated most about high school. I had a pretty reliable set of friends. I’d quit field hockey, run the school paper and and I’d gained the weight back. I probably even fought with my parents a little less. But I still couldn’t wait to get to Syracuse — with good reason. It ended up being four years of everything high school wasn’t.
So on August 26, 1996, I excitedly packed my Walmart-purchased school supplies into our minivan (with plenty of help), excitedly unpacked my boxes in my split double on the 8th floor of Sadler Hall, aside my crazy, dragon-loving roommate, and excitedly said goodbye to my mother in the dorm lobby as I excitedly looked toward whatever orientation session I had that afternoon.
I know my mother, who was turning around to drive back to Walpole that day, was excited for me, too. I just had no idea how hard it must have been for her to leave me there. After all, I hadn’t exactly been the easiest person to live with dring those high school years. I’d assumed that my mom was as excited to see me go as I was to make my new home in the bustling metropolis of Syracuse, New York (ha).
Until she started to cry when we said goodbye.
I didn’t get it then. But I do, now. I don’t have kids yet, but I’d like to think that I have a more empathetic heart than I did at 18.
I’d made it, and so had my parents: through all the hard classes, and all the hard times outside of classes, through the driving test (and many hours behind the wheel, before), and the proms, and the college trips, applications, and finally, the deposit that held that spot for me in Sadler.
This day 15 years ago was a triumph for all involved. It was one of the happiest moments of my life, and probably of theirs.
I’m sorry that I didn’t realize until now how hard that day must have been for them, too.
So, 15 years later: Thanks, Mom and Dad.
The hard days were worth it!