Saturday morning we drove up, up, and away to Flagstaff to take our youngest son, William, to college. It’s his sophomore year, so the event was not nearly as emotionally charged as last year, when sending our youngest to college meant we were for the first time (drum roll, please): EMPTY NESTERS!
We arrived at William’s apartment and greeted his room mate, Drew, and Drew’s parents (our friends for many years), unloaded our vehicle to find out we’d forgotten approximately 20 things (which was better than last year’s 50 things). Luckily for us, William’s girl friend will be back down in the Valley next weekend and will gladly pick up and drive back things we left behind: dish towels, bathroom cleansers, an acoustic guitar, his non-allergenic orthopedic pillow, sun block, a desk chair, laundry hamper, small cereal bowls, etc.
We spent most of the weekend assembling IKEA furniture, something our family hasn’t ever done before. I personally don’t like the IKEA aesthetic; it’s practical and no frills. I prefer impractical with lots of frills, preferably antique or used . . . and with a great story. (When you walk into my house, you think, yikes, I’m at Grandma’s house.) And when I say “we” were assembling IKEA furniture, I mean rather William and Hubby were assembling IKEA furniture, while I unpacked boxes, made suggestions for furniture placement, chatted with everyone, and generally kept morale high. (I am the least handy person in my family, including my extended family, but it’s not because I CAN’T do it. It’s because I hate reading instructions.) Over the years I have perfected my faux attempts at helping to assemble stuff by crouching near the project, reaching for tools, carefully holding washers and screws, making concerned noises (hmmm) accompanied by a furrowed brow, and asking everyone if they’re doing okay and might they need a glass of water? I’m pretty sure I’m not fooling anyone.
But when we left today, William’s apartment looked amazing. He reported that his new Tuft & Needle mattress was super comfy. We replaced the apartment’s shower head with a new one with an extendable-arm so you can get “everything” clean (if you know what I mean). We walked around campus and found his classes (which are all in the same places they were last year because he is a Chemistry major) on this beautiful campus full of trees and blooming flowers and old brick buildings. I spent a lot of time drinking in the view out the front door of his apartment which abuts an undeveloped wooded area. And the clouds: I never get tired of admiring the huge mountain clouds drifting in the huge sky!
Part of me wishes so hard I could live there, too. What’s not to love? Flagstaff has wildflowers, vast meadows with horses chewing grass, snow-topped mountains reaching to the sky, and the scent of pine trees always in the breeze. Besides, it’s hard to say goodbye to my kid. A HUGE part of me will miss William immensely. I love all three of my children equally, but I can honestly say that of the three, he is the most open and the most chatty and most importantly, the most present . . . and was such great company over this summer. I did not cry when we left. We hugged, told him we loved him and that we are proud of him. I was strong and brave and reminded myself that everyone is where they’re supposed to be.
At 3pm we were on the road back to Tempe. The first half of the drive is so pretty, with scenic mountain views and wildflowers blooming by the side of the road. We admired the scenery quietly for a while, then turned on the radio. I was touched to hear an old favorite by Paul Simon, An American Tune. So many years ago, I sang that melodious song to my children as a bedtime lullaby. Tears came to my eyes as I softly sang along, thinking about all the years that have gone by, all the memories we’ve made, and all of the good times yet to come.