It's funny how it all snuck up on me. I mean, I knew it was coming, hardly a surprise. We’ve spent the better part of a year absorbed in the minutiae of preparing for college. Suffered through months’ worth of arguing alternating with the push-pull of his excitement to go and hesitance to leave. All the while, we took it out on each other to make it easier to say goodbye. And still the day rolled around and we were all just a little bit in shock.
We all scoped out the room, videoed a short tour for the family. Teen Spirit and Daddy-O hoisted a mini-fridge, microwave, bags of clothes, suitcase, school supplies and snacks out of the car parked across the street. All the while, La Principessa scratched out impressionistic drawings of all the proceedings. It was like having a courtroom artist record the moment.
It was then that I began my own personal Japanese tea ceremony with his belongings. I gingerly removed the price tags from his new clothes, folding the wispy plastic strands carefully into the size stickers and laying cardboard tags in neat little piles. I arranged toiletries and stacked the snacks as they were delivered to my feet. I found myself slow motion Gap-folding every stinkin' shirt in the pile. I laid each one across the desk, smoothed every wrinkle, delicately aligning the sleeves to the torso. I precisely matched every edge and corner as if I were soldering a panel on the space shuttle. Because that's what every college dude needs, crisp shirts in a pile, neat as a ream of paper, wedged into his half-bureau. I think I imagined all that folding might slow down time just a bit, maybe even move it backwards. I wanted the dirge-like steadiness to help me find my breath.
Finally the moment of truth arrived. I tried to think of something profound to say but all the words spilled out in a breathless, shaky tumble. He asked me -- very urgently -- not to cry.The thought of making this harder on him was enough for me to steel myself. After Daddy-O literally pried me away, we sat in the car and I let it all fly for a few minutes. Daddy-O had planned ahead with a lovely lunch to distract during the long ride home, even though for some reason the food had no taste.
Teen Spirit has been a Hokie for about 6 weeks now -- the family transition continues. During the first week he was at school, Daddy-O was shutting up the house for the night. I called down, “Don’t turn the alarm on yet – he’s still …." Nope, never mind. Teen Spirit seems to be happy and thriving, making friends and building a community for himself. We’ve been mostly fine – we’re all adjusting in our own way. I’ve had more than a few Toy Story 3 moments, walking into his hollowed-out room and not remembering how long I had been standing there staring into space. Not much left to see, except the shells of boyhood scattered around.