when I cracked

So it finally happened.
It's not like I'm keeping track of the most miserable moments in my life or anything, but if I were:

It's not like I wasn't expecting it. I mean I have avoided other people's kids graduation ceremonies for over a decade, because nobody but nobody needs to torture themselves like that. For the past 18 years I've politely nodded at well-meaning people espousing, "Enjoy it, it goes by so fast." I nearly bit my tongue in half instead of clapping back, "Can't you see I'm already a damn mess because he's moved on from Thomas the Train to dinosaurs, and he's using a straw instead of a sippy  cup!!! Give me some room to grieve old man!!!"

But I truly thought I was doing alright. Sure I'd been a little weepy helping him pack his Calvin and Hobbes books and favorite lego dudes for decorations. 

And I took way more pictures of everyday moments than I normally would have. 

Kooka and I might have fought a bit about who was going to make up his bed, and yeah I teared up a teeny bit when his sisters both hugged him goodbye. But aside from that, I was doing wayyyyyyy better than I expected. Hell, I even kept it (mostly) together after we said our final goodbyes, and we were a block away from his dorm. I was getting into the van, and heard somebody running up behind me. He shouted, "Mom!" and he pulled me into a huge embrace and said, "I'm going to meet up with Matthew, but just wanted one last hug. Love you."

As far as college drop-offs go, it was a pretty Norman Rockwell experience. 

I even managed to get through the first family dinner at the restaurant without him tear-free. 

But the driveway.

The f-ing driveway.

I could feel it before I walked in the house.

The house we bought because of him and Kooka. The house he loves decorating for Halloween. The house always filled with the sounds of Billy Joel and show tunes and Disney movies and the Office and Friends. The house that smells like Hollister cologne when he's going out, and Starbucks and Dr. Pepper when he's coming in. 

I didn't even make it in the door.

And when I did?

The first thing I said?

It was a whisper, but I said it. 

It was the first feeling I felt - "If he doesn't live in this house, I don't want to either."

And I meant it.

It hurt desperately to see his walls so full of posters and mementos looking like this:

It broke my soul to see his marker stash - overflowing since the second grade, looking like this:

I'm not sure when it will ever not hurt. When the admissions lady joked about turning your kids' bedroom into into an office, I was thinking, "And by 'office' you mean 'shrine' right?" because that sixth grade art trophy and Lego-space-alien poster ain't going nowhere sweetheart.

I want to say that deep down I am grateful, but that would be a lie.

Deep down I am grieving, obsessing. I am however grateful on the surface. I am grateful that he is capable and happy and was already off to meet friends as we were pulling away from campus. I am grateful that his science class is all about dinosaurs, because my God, why don't alllllll schools do science like this?  I am grateful that he took a bite of my pesto turkey spinach wrap in the cafeteria and said, "That's amazing, maybe I'll try that instead of pizza or lucky charms someday." I am grateful that he seems to love his roommates, got along great with his advisor, was able to register without our help, got into the art class he thought was full, lucked out with a new dorm, and remembered that I put the first aid kit under his sink. 

I am grateful.


But he packed a piece of my heart in those boxes, and I know I'll only get to borrow it occasionally from here on out. That and my favorite mug. Of all the mugs in all of the cupboards he picked the one my gram gave me when I was six. He can keep that piece of my heart, but he better bring that mug back.


Matthew Rehn said…
Hey, I got mentioned in this one! Don't worry,I'll keep watch over him to make sure nothing bad happens this year.i know it will be hard for you guys being away from him, but I know you can handle it
j said…
Matthew - you are now my favorite person in the whole entire world! He'll watch out for you too. He'll be singing Billy Joel and quoting The Office while he does it - but he'll have your back.
Julie Roh said…
Ok. Was doing fine until I read this.... T minus 36 hours and I am joining your club. ��
Thought I was ready.... apparently not��
Lisa McDermott said…
Well, I'm crying while reading this and I only had to pack kids off for their first day of high school this morning, which coincidentally is RIGHT NEXT DOOR to one of my offices. Plus it happened two whole weeks ago already anyway.

Remind me to reread this about four years minus one month from now. I'm going to need it to remind myself that I can do this hard thing.

Gosh parenting sucks. Why did we have those kids anyway?!! Just to break our hearts??!!!