In addition to the now resolved internal struggle of ‘face-to-face or virtual’ for Zack, we’ve been having a similar debate with Zoe. Well, maybe not that similar. Pandemics, protests, and riots are probably not the same as ‘just’ a pandemic. We shouldn’t have been surprised that the road to Zoe’s next step would be lined with confusing signs, detours, and an occasional mammoth of a pothole. The entire process of getting Zoe to college has been one hiccup, speed bump, or wrong turn after another. Once we knew where she was going, it seemed like things would finally settle down – fall into place. Sign up for housing, pick a meal plan, buy dorm-bed-length sheets, sign up for classes, and wait for an email telling her who she’d be rooming with. Check, check, and hold your horses.
All that stood in the way of that simple plan was – will the university be opened or not? Details. Will the students go back in the fall? Will the students be allowed in the dorms? Will the dorm population be limited? Will classes be online or in person? It seemed like each time we made a decision, another factoid was sent our way causing us to question that and the next three decisions – all of which had the consistency of Jello. Can we turn those into shots, please? Eventually, I, the lone holdout, agreed with both Zoe and Rich – an apartment made more sense in these whonky times that fell in sync with our child’s burning desire to move the heckle out. We don’t take that personally, by the way. That burning desire has been growing since approximately kindergarten. Some folks just aren’t meant to stay. I suppose Zoe inherited her gypsy soul from her grandmother – who, to this day, can’t stay in one place for more than a few years.
How do you tell a child who started packing her bags twelve years ago that, though the time had finally arrived, she may have to forgo the move until the department of health gave her the green light. Yeah, that wasn’t going to work. So, apartment shopping began, was decided and all dotted lines were signed. Yes! Phew! Okay, now it seemed like things would settle down, fall into place. Right? Hello? I mean, what else to go sideways?
And while I’m not going to get too far into the details, because lawd knows anything anybody says can be interpreted to the worst possible level of assumptions – the ‘what else’ was the spark of protests and riots up and down our Monument Avenue area and beyond. Each day, the news, both local and national, brought more stories of unrest, damage, and a seemingly never-to-end stream of activity that made us a bit nervous to send our just-turned-into-an-adult person down into the fray. Did I mention where her apartment is? Monument Avenue, front and center, with a view of one of the most talked about (and now removed) Confederate Statues just outside her bedroom window. What parents wouldn’t feel like complete lunatics dropping their kid off into the middle of that?
Well, it turns out, us.
Which sparked another round of ‘you’re doing it wrong’ parenting criticisms and another pullback to keeping things relating to members of the McGillicutty house inside the walls of the McGillicutty house. I guess now that her bed is made (probably not) on Monument avenue, it’s okay that the whole world (51 subscribers) knows that we did, in fact, drop our kid off into the middle of that.
The chances that she won’t be fine are pretty slim. The chances that she moved straight into the center of a historical time period are less slim. Protests? Causes? Action? This stuff is the tailor made for the youth – what with all their energy and zest and ability to stay up past 9:00 pm. Which is very similar to the answer we gave the kids when asked why we weren’t more involved in the racial tensions conversation. We’ve had our time, Zoe, this is yours – go stand for your beliefs and push for change and jump in with both feet. But use your common sense and remember the safety measures we’ve asked you to take and don’t talk to strangers and (never mind, we didn’t say it out loud).
She’ll be fine. That’s been our mantra. Trust how you raised her. She knows the difference between good and bad. Right and wrong. We’ve told ourselves so many things in the past weeks – even upon hearing of a drop in police presence (this is what was asked for, right?), even upon hearing that there were still nightly drippings of vandalism (including on her very campus). She’s smart. It’s time. We can’t keep her in a bubble. It’s been just over twenty-four hours and, to our knowledge, she’s still alive and not in jail. To our knowledge. She knows that if Rich shows up on her corner with an order to get in the car, she is to do it – no questions asked. She knows that we will not track her every movement (so long, Life360) but will keep her in the family Find My Phone group.
Move in day both crawled getting here and flew once it arrived. It seemed like we’d just started pushing her to figure out where she wanted to go after high school and suddenly oh, jeez, is that a U-Haul out front?!?! My brain went into hyper-drive trying to land on anything that we may have missed, may have forgotten to teach her, may have thought she’d figure on her own but now I wanted to do it for her… Her move in time was set for noon on the 8th (scheduled by the on-site manager to give us an appointment with the freight elevator). Perfect – take her down, move her in, unpack a bit, go get one last family-of-four late lunch and say dramatic goodbyes as we pulled away from the curb, looking in the rear view until she was just a dot in the distance – silence in the car as we all came to the emotional grip of the shape of our new posse.
It didn’t quite go that way.
Move in time was pushed to 3:00 pm. Still no biggie – just a quick re-arranging of the 24 hour U-Haul rental (thank you, flexible trailer people). Late lunch would be turned into early dinner. Sure. We all got up and started circling around each other in the house – that pre-flight-routine of keeping oneself busy long enough to be late for departure. I left – off to Hobby Lobby for last minute items (how had we forgotten a housewarming gift?!?! And why did it seem so important two hours before leaving?!?!). The meltdowns began around 2:00 pm…Rich and I…the stress sending us into a quiet bicker. It’ll be fine. We can do this. She’ll be fine. Finally, we pointed the parade to Monument Avenue and made the longest twenty minute drive in history, arriving just a few minutes late. Phew! 3:02 pm.
3:47pm: We were back in the car, less one. Shell shocked? Confused? A bit, what?, hurt? Yes. All of the above. Take her down, move her in,
unpack a bit, go get one last family-of-four late dinner and say dramatic goodbyes as we pulled away from the curb, looking in the rear view until she was just a dot in the distance. I guess this is what it’s like having a child who only wants their independence. When it’s finally within reach, they grab it and go – no looking back, no hugs, no shrugged ‘love you’ – off onto the next chapter. Well, shoot. That wasn’t how we thought it would go. It’s our first kid, though, we’ll either be well-prepared for the next one. Or we’ll keep him in a choke hold until he admits to appreciating our efforts. We found ourselves with unplanned hours to kill and unplanned emotions to work through. I threw out a request for a life preserver and the call was answered with open arms (and perhaps several drinks) at our friends’ house. A few hours and a few pizzas later (and perhaps several drinks) we felt ready to face the new version of our home.
Sunday arrived and Rich and I had flip-flopped – he was more fine than not and I was a basket case. Where were these tears coming from?!? After months (okay, years) of trying to figure out The Relationship of Jyl & Zoe, wasn’t I ready for some air? Why was I so…..sad?? Missed opportunities? No. Missed conversations? No. What was it?! A few minutes into my third confusing meltdown, my phone rang – Mom for the win. Mom – who has had another round of bad weeks with a third surgery for a third back fracture – yet somehow knew I needed her. Mom – who rarely dials the phone out was on the other end of the ring, telling me that it was okay to be sad – that when my brother was yanked out of bed for his departure to Parris Island, she cried for days (while Dad stared at her trying to figure out what was for dinner).
Oh, okay, this was normal then. A normal, real-mom, moment with real-mom tears and a real-mom hole in my real-mom heart. Un-exacerbated by the pandemic, protests, riots, questioning looks from friends or comments from relatives with regards to our decision.
Just real life homesickness for the home of the day before.
I’m trying to tackle it. I’ve mopped and swept and organized – my weird way of putting control back in my life when I feel like there is none. I’ve shed more tears, attempted grocery shopping for three, verbally assaulted Rich (in fairness, it went both ways), worked out, got some sun, did some writing (see above…), made some crafts, took the dogs on a ride, and pretty much let Zack do or say whatever he wanted for some time.
Which wraps up the first thirty-six hours.
Where was this chapter, Dr. Spock?