The Night Before Kiki Leaves for College

I sat in the front room and surveyed the suitcase and boxes that will be loaded into my car tomorrow morning. Howard made a joke about “Good thing she’s packing light.” Except I think she is really. I don’t know the last time when all of my belongings would fit into the back of a van. Also I remember the pile of boxes that we moved from Howard’s final bachelor room into our first shared apartment. It was larger than Kiki’s pile. He had lots of music gear and far more books. Kiki will accumulate things at college, but what she’s got now is good.

The girl’s room is rearranged, ready for Gleek to spread her belongings out across most of it. Some corners will be reserved for Kiki, but there is no sense in leaving shelves empty when they could be used. Gleek is beginning to see the possibilities of the new space. Already I’ve had sadness from Patch because Gleek’s room is cooler than his now.

I’m really going to do this. Tomorrow I’m going to load my oldest child in the car, drive her hours away, and then come back without her.

There is a game kids sometimes play where one hook her fingers together and pulls as hard as she can for a minute or two. The reason for the effort is that when the fingers are straightened they seem to creak and be difficult to move. I think this final letting go is going to be like that. I’ve held on for so long, kept her safe, taught her things, I’m not sure if I remember how to open up and let her fly.

She’s ready, except where she’s not ready, but she is as ready as she can be right now. Part of my mind races with a million warnings: always lock your doors, keep track of your expenses, don’t walk alone at night, remember to write down the homework assignments…and dozens of others. Yet the thoughts attenuate and fade before I speak them. There is nothing in those thoughts that I haven’t said before. Repetition will gain nothing, it is just my anxiety echoing in my head. At this point what matters is Kiki taking the reins over her life, not me being reassured that I got a good grade at parenting.

I did make sure to tell her that over the next months she will change and grow. New life possibilities will open, and I wanted her to know that she doesn’t need to be afraid of disappointing us if she veers from her current chosen path toward being a freelance artist. She must follow her own inspiration and direction, if she does that, then she’ll find a good place for her.

This time tomorrow we’ll have hugged goodbye, I’ll be on my drive home, and she’ll probably already have texted me with a question. It is good to remember that keeping in touch is far easier than it was when I was her age.