Last night I trudged through the snow to “Guidance Night.” Since the high school is only three blocks from here, I walked, of course, which meant wearing Yak Traks on my boots. This is not one of the more fashionable looks I’ve ever sported, but a bump or bruise from falling flat on the ice, would have been less fashionable, so I weighed my options. Thing is, I didn’t even take them off when I got there, I just left them on, and thus appeared in public with said Yak Traks on my boots. Yes, things are going to hell in a hand basket here in Brookline. My husband was going to come too, but he got caught in an hour and a half traffic jam, care of the craziness provided by unploughed streets here in Massachusetts (the “Mass” part now standing for inches of snow).
Having gone through the college process with one kid already (and believe me the memory, unlike the way they say childbirth memories fade so you can do it again, is still unfortunately technicolor clear), I didn’t learn all that much that was new. But there was a moment when one of the counselors, talking about the general mood a parent should try and maintain senior year, which took my breath away for nearly a full minute (grateful it didn’t last longer because what if I fainted and an ambulance had to come and take me away in my Yak Traks. Who would even care if my underwear was clean, I would be judged by those ugly things on my boots). She said, “For many of you, next year will be the last time your kids ever live with you, so try and create some good memories.” That statement hit me in the stomach so hard, I thought someone had thrown a basketball at me from the chatty first row, and I’d been looking down at my Yak Traks trying to redesign them in my head, to make them more attractive (shouldn’t there be some way to make them cuter?), and hadn’t caught it.
I did all sorts of emotional work to prepare for Jake’s departure, but Ally will empty the nest. She is the second and last child in the house (unless you count Riley, who is not, I repeat NOT going to college). This is a different type of preparation, and while I’ve done plenty of work on it, I haven’t done as much as I apparently thought, since when those words came out of that earnest red haired counselor’s mouth, I felt each of them stab me like the weather reports of another potential foot of snow on Saturday night.
This is my next project: prepare for Ally’s departure. Jake’s senior year was a festival of last’s, each one that we celebrated and cried over. I had puffy eyes from September 2012-September 2013. I longed for his next steps, while remembering his first steps. I reached for him desperately, at the same time I was pushing him away. It was a challenging year, but when he finally boarded the plane, and after I came home and cried for 24 hours straight, I felt cleansed and ready, excited even, for his awesome adventure (he spent his first semester in Barcelona).
But Ally leaving for college has a different tone. Jake was the first. She is the last. It’s time to start getting my house in order. Again.