There were so many things to think about this summer before THIS ^ occurred. “THIS” being the life-altering event of moving my first-born child and only daughter, Ryder, out of our home and into her dorm room. Out-of-state. Six hours away. In a much bigger city. Where she only knows a few other students, and none of them particularly well. I told myself it was exciting, which it is, and that she was ready, which I truly think she is. But I might not have been as prepared as I thought I was.
I found plenty of distractions. In June I had to take Ryder to orientation at TCU. There was no reason to think about her leaving until she had been oriented, right? And then not long after that she left for a 10-day trip to Italy. No reason to stress while she’s relaxing in the Mediterranean. I could do that when she gets back….might as well relax too! Four days after her return from Italy was our family vacation to Florida, and we took two of her closest friends with us. It seemed only logical to enjoy them & not fret about how much I was going to miss them. But then DANG! It seemed we had barely UNpacked our suitcases and we were busy packing big Sterilite containers and making sure we had duvets and pillows and necessities purchased. It sneaks up faster than a tornado on a trailer park. Now that I’ve been through it, I don’t think there’s any way to really prepare for the myriad emotions that you’re going to feel.
Ever the planner, I had assumed that with a move-in date of August 10th, we would leave on the 9th. Well, be warned that those childhood friendships grow stronger in the months leading up to college, when the notion of existing without each other becomes real & they become very, very hard for your child to leave. I got that because I, too, chose a university away from all of my high school friends and I set off on my own, not knowing a soul in the town that would be my college home for four years of my life. If your child has friendships that move them this much emotionally, thank God for that. I missed my friends terribly and when my daughter said, “I don’t want to go until the day I’m supposed to move in,” I understood. I also thought it would be a chance to go on ahead & spend a night alone with Chuck to sort of decompress from the stress & drama of packing and getting ready to leave. And be warned, with girls, there is drama in getting ready to leave! Chuck & I loaded the Suburban to maximum capacity and headed for Ft. Worth on Friday. Ryder spent her last night at home, surrounded by her friends, who made sure she was up at dawn and stood in our driveway as she pulled away. I will be forever grateful to them for this & I think it was the perfect end to her summer because we, her family, will be in her life on a consistent basis for the rest of her life and those friends will head off in separate directions, making it harder to see each other as often. I love them all as my own & I cried myself to sleep those last two (or three) nights, thinking that late-night pow-wows on my bed and girls strewn all over my living room on Saturday and Sunday mornings would be coming to an end, or at least be less frequent. I was able to spend a wonderful spring break with Ryder and her friends and enjoy a vacation to Dallas with them this summer and I will always cherish those trips.
The tension of move-in day was eased by the fact that TCU is a small campus with a very organized and dedicated group of people who made the transition from home to college life as easy as possible. A friend of Ryder’s who was already at TCU had introduced her to her roommate and they had been communicating via social media since March. There was absolutely no tension when we met – both of our families seemed to mesh immediately & getting their room set up was so enjoyable. I think she’s off to a great start. We took her to dinner that first night and she fell asleep in the booth at Macaroni Grill. Afterward, we went on a whirlwind shopping trip to Target & back to the room. She bid us goodbye without a tear and we headed back to our hotel, leaving her to sleep in her new digs.
We walked into our hotel that night & got on the elevator with a family who appeared to be leaving a wedding in one of the ballrooms. There was Grandpa, Grandma, Mom, Dad & a little girl about three with short bobbed brown hair and blue eyes, eerily reminiscent of Ryder at the same age. She was twirling in her fancy dress and ballet flats and expressing joy at getting to ride on the elevator to the 4th floor. We were admiring her cuteness & sharing that we had just dropped our daughter off for her first night at college. As we got off the elevator the little girl got off and skipped ahead of us all, soaking in the wonders of a nice hotel as if it were her castle and she the princess who lived there. As she got smaller and further away, we approached our room and I slid the key in the slot, took a deep breath & accepted the fact that I would end my night with yet more tears, this time a mix of sadness for what I was going to miss & joy for what wonderful things I know are ahead.