Saturday morning, a swarm of red-shirted college students surrounded our rental car and disappeared with boxes and bags as fast as we could unload them. The room packed with stuff and now eight people, but the empty boxes soon piled up in the hallway, disorder massaged into a cute dorm room.
Her roommate sat on her jacked-up bed looking like an eager ten-year-old as she navigated signing into the college network on her computer. The younger brothers a contrast in backgrounds â€“ hers in his camo and hunting belt with Leatherman attached and our buzz cut, khaki-shorted, Van sneakered version. They shared the same bored slope to their shoulders.
At the Commons, we navigated lines for the bookstore where Carter and Jim had already decked themselves out in college spirit t-shirts and fake tattoos. She declared that all her favorite foods were represented at the lunch stations – salad bar, pizza, pasta, mexican, deli.
Having never visited the campus before we requested a tour and a red-shirted senior was hastily roped into doing her well-practiced schtickÂ which turned out to be the best part of the day. Olivia seemed to come alive as we wandered the campus and she could finally imagine herself in this setting. Our psych major senior was full of tips about everything from sororities to yoga teachers. She waved perky hellos to many as we walked around and it was easy to see our tour guide becoming a great resource in the days and weeks to come.
I was struck by the â€“ what to call it exactly – humbleness? of the students we saw. People smiled. Clothing styles seemed casual. None of the fashion shows from some of our other college tours. No posturing, no sideways glances, just genuine excitement and a certain confidence each was in the right place.
From her dorm room, we split up, leaving her to go to the computer lab while we made another trip to Walmart for some forgotten items. I fussed as she left, making sure she had what she needed, ever the mom. As she walked away, I heard someone call “Mama!” and went to the window to see if it was her. Jim started to laugh. “You are so cute! But it’s time to let her go now,” He pulled me into an embrace. I laughed too, but tears sprang to my eyes.
Driving home after taking her to a restaurant in an old fire-station and leaving her at her dorm, Sirrus radio played an array of songs on a channel that we couldn’t begin to imagine the genre of. AÂ Little Feat song came on. “All That You Dream.”
All, all that you dream
Comes through shinin silver lining
Clouds, clouds change the scene
Rain starts washing all these cautions
Right into your life, makes you realize
Just what is true, what else can you do
You just follow the rule
Keep your eyes on the road that’s ahead of you
I turned to Carter who sat in the back seat, “This was one of your dad’s favorite bands.” I was sensitive to Jim, still trying to navigate Arron’s presence in Jim’s life, but in that moment this fact seemed important. I was quiet thinking about Arron, trying to place him in this day. Would he be sad to let her go, or happy or proud? All the things I was feeling? The tears rolled down my cheeks as I drove. I swiped at them discreetly not wanting to alert Jim to my sudden sadness. It didn’t seem fair to Jim that I should be sad. He was here, not Arron. My mixed feelings were confusing. Another tear. The song played on, the past drowning me. The beautiful Pennsylvania landscape rolled by in tidy green fields, red barns and white silos.Â Keep your eyes on the road that’s ahead of you.Â
Sunday morning, at the matriculation ceremony the president of the school admitted in a wavering voice that he had just dropped off his own daughter at college causing more tears to roll down my cheeks.
A final lunch at McDonald’s and a final supply run and we drove up to her dorm for the final time.
My weeks of anticipation of this moment had come, but she turned to me and laughed. “Don’t cry mama. I’ll be fine.” I laughed a little through my tears as I gave her a hug. “But it’s my job to cry,” I said. The next day we flew home, a continent-distance away.
Those tears are still there a week later as I write this, but I can tell her level of happiness in the sparseness of her texts. Yesterday I got a photo of a new fish named Nacho and another of a handsome boy.
All that you dream,Â Comes through shinin silver lining.