You know something’s up when the old Honda Pilot gets vacuumed. Fifteen years from the assembly line and 265,000 miles on the odometer, there’s really no point.
Unless maybe you’re about to load it up with a tight dorm room’s worth of your son’s belongings.
It’d been two years since the last college drop-off. That’s a lot of sand to suck up, but I can’t say I contributed to it much, what with only a handful of ocean dips.
My son and I squeezed in one last one on Saturday, the day before D-Day, the Day of Departure, even getting in some back-and-forth with a football. And earlier, a first in the year since he joined a gym downtown, we were able to spend some last-minute time together spotting each other at the weight bench in the basement.
Such is the focusing power of a deadline. But it’s also the case that it’s been a different kind of summer. Emptier, you might say, for the parental units. Not so much as a Duraflame log in the fire pit, the outdoor Ping-Pong table unused.
Which is to be expected as the kids grow up: The oldest spent the summer in her college town upstate to train for the coming cross-country season. The youngest started her first real job. And the son in the middle had his biggest group of friends since he was in short pants, plus, since midyear, a girlfriend, meaning he was forever on his way out.
If this was a first glimpse of the empty nest, I’m going to have to find something comforting to line it with.
So, a child leaves for college. It’s not about me, I was told, but I will say this, speaking of focusing your attention, I came away from that sunny, bittersweet Sunday afternoon in the Bronx thinking that everyone in these shoes should experience something akin to a Jesuit institution’s Mass welcoming the freshman class.
Because of course it doubles as a goodbye ceremony. “And now I’ll ask the parents to place their hands on their child’s shoulder,” came the word from the pulpit, and then the blessing, good wishes.
“Tissues provided!” chirped a college administrator in an announcement a week earlier. He wasn’t kidding. They brought them around in baskets.