Last Sunday I dropped my child off at college. I felt pretty prepared for the transition. We’d been making lists, stockpiling necessities, planning colors and decorations and storage and snacks for weeks. We’d washed bedding and towels, bought new tires, purchased books, signed loans, and budgeted savings. It was fun. I was proud and nervous and excited for my daughter to fly; and she was ready.
I saw a lot of other mothers dropping off their children at college that day. They were dressed in work clothes, hair pulled up, sweating it on the stairs with boxes and bags and microwaves. I was right there with them! I witnessed many hugs doled out in doorways and hallways and parking lots. I could feel the anticipation mounting. As the day went on, I felt less prepared to leave my precious child in her tiny new home decorated with crates and shelves and a futon. I watched as she found crevices for her backpack, her make-up, her jewelry and her extra sweatshirts. She brought too many tee-shirts, but shoved them all into the drawer anyway. She was making it work, embracing everything.
I took a moment to soak it all in. I noticed how long her hair had gotten, and how it bounced when she walked. I was pleased with her straight smile that cost a small fortune. I listened to her laugh while she organized her books on a shelf. She was happy. I remembered a younger Jessica, determined to become a dancer, teacher, scientist, songwriter…
“Mom, I have to go.” I wasn’t quite ready. Quick hugs for everyone, “I love you” and she was off. I watched her walk away from me. I felt unfinished, incomplete, awkward almost. I thought our goodbye would be longer, full of meaningful words of wisdom. It happened so fast. She disappeared around the corner and that was it. I made it out of the dorm, but then I just stood there, tears streaming. I felt like I didn’t hold her long enough; like I didn't hold her tight enough. It was a feeling I'll never forget, and I'm not even sure what it was. It wasn't sadness, or anger, or depression. I think it was love. I think it was the feeling that encompasses the phrase "love sucks", because at that moment, it did.