Friday, September 24, 2010

Wide Open Spaces

And so, TeenArabella is now College Arabella.

Two weeks before Labor Day I took my daughter off to college and left her there. My next sentence is going to surprise you.

I was as happy as a pig in shit.

Rewind to last April with her approaching graduation. I was feeling all the proper emotional angst and pressure of family travel arrangements, graduation announcements and all the final things that go along with the end of the school year. Never, it seemed had so many of these things fallen so quickly and back to back.

And I was right. The school year was ending a bit earlier because of all the building of new schools that Ted Strickland is determinedly building all over the state in his eventual plan to switch to a year-round school. Our school district has not escaped the round of we will build you new schools and funnel you money in exchange for promising to drug test your kids and God only knows what all. And who cares. Come fall we would have shiny new buildings for our kids to go to and God Bless America, that's what really counts. Right?

Back to my life. The day before graduation, half of our duo of Mighty Mutts Inc. died. Tipper, who as technically and officially My Dog was suffering badly. Hip Displasia, fever, in and out of lucidness. She was a big dog and it seems for big dogs, 9 in human years is ripe old age in dog years. "The Decision" had to be made. The kind of decision where you go to the vet with Two Dogs and walk out with One Dog.

It tore our hearts out. I'm every day of 39, but my mother held me and rocked me like the last 30 years had never passed and I'd just come home with a skinned knee while I sobbed out my grief over our fallen doggie.

When graduation came we had no tears left for our graduate walking down the aisle. We were all watery smiles because we had a reason to celebrate after the day of grief before. While other people were merely snapping photos of their child we were showing pictures of the child we had buried just the day before. See, this was our dog...she's gone now... "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion," Dolly Parton says in Steele Magnolias and that day was our day to cry and to laugh.

Mind you Arabella (not her real name, but what I call her on this blog) is my only child. When I first stated blogging she was LittleArabella, and she and I got along famously. My pathway with Teen Arabella was not exactly strewn with roses, but I think we got along better than you would believe. But what I didn't realize is that four years of unexpressed Teen Angst would rear their ugly head in I'mNearly18Arabella. It seems with college on the horizon, some idea of being beyond her parents reach and therefore constant and unyielding care beckoned to her like a siren song to sailors.

Suddenly, I was wrong about everything. Everything. My brain had melted and was suddenly mush. Angry mush. We could not have a conversation about so much as oatmeal without it turning into screaming matches that were unparalleled in our history.

I was not ready to let go. She was not ready to budge an inch.

My mother played GrandmaReferee and was more successful than I'd like to give her credit for. I wanted Arabella to listen to me! But oh well. We were moving towards orientation weekend. Which was hell by the way. They immediately separated the impending college students from their guardians, which, as far as I was concerned was fine with me. The few times we were together, we fought like cats and dogs.

My mom's hearing is not as good as it used to be. She would miss Arabella's snide remarks which, like a dumbass, I would insist on responding to. My mother, not hearing, would wonder why I was fuming, Arabella was pouting and we would explain and explain again. And when she still couldn't hear, shout an explanation to which she would say, OH! and reach a conclusion we'd already done except now we were mad all over again from having to explain our sides of the argument all over again.

Like I said, Orientation weekend was hell.

I wish I could say it got better as we got closer to her leaving date, but it didn't. My mother took over completely the washing and packing of Arabella's stuff. I was merely the checkbook and the ride to Wal-Mart. We did have a couple of successful shopping trips because we both can be hypnotized by thrift stores, bargains and shopping even under the worst of circumstances. But these trips were not what they once were....something between us had changed.

The daunting task of moving my daughter to a college campus in another state, albeit only two and a half hours away was set. We had our hotel plans, her dorm assignment, her class schedule and a list of things to settle with financial aid.

I insisted that my mother go with us. I was afraid I would be over-emotional. I was afraid we would argue. I was afraid. I really didn't know what I'd feel but a sneaking suspicion was coming over me.

I wasn't going to be sad. I was going to be happy. Relieved.

I mean really, college was the best place for her at this point. She had the academic achievements and talent to be there. She wasn't quite adult enough to be completely on her own, but she did need to spread her wings. Cue the Dixie Chicks singing "Wide Open Spaces". I mean really, did I really need a country song to drive home the point?

And we fought a big while we were there, but it was a token resistance. I think I planned to stay on campus too long. We should have dropped her off and left, but honestly, dragging my mother with me and all that her MS entails, I owed it to her to be able to travel and rest. We drove up on a Wednesday and got her moved into the dorm. We stayed over on Thursday and went to Financial Aid and got her room arranged. I had planned for her to have dinner with us that night but she was busy with her new friends already.

Friday was leaving day. We made a last minute trip to the ubiquitous Wal-Mart for things we had forgotten or never had. We took her back to the dorm.

And then the oddest thing. She went into her dorm and brought me out a lovely red purse. She'd bought it at Target the night before with her own money. She saw it and thought of me.

And we hugged. And then we said goodbye. She walked into her dorm and looked back a couple of times, but she went through the door and didn't come back out again.

And we drove away.

My eyes were dry.

It is possible to leave your kids at college and not be sad. I was telling this to my blog pal, Jo, over at TheSkepticOne and she said, "You should write about this and tell other parents that they can survive leaving their kids at college."

And so I did.

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