The Second College Drop-Off

This past weekend, my oldest daughter moved back into her dorm for her second semester of college. I wrote about the first college drop-off: a process filled with rolling carts and stacks of clothes, desk lamps and extra-long fitted sheets, Command-hooked twinkle lights and posters for the cinderblock walls, school supplies and four-by-six area rugs between the beds.

I wasn't prepared for it, but this second drop-off hit harder. I hugged her goodbye in the parking lot, then watched as she wheeled her suitcase and hoisted her backpacks, one on her back and one on her front, as she followed my husband, who carried her laundry basket of winter clothes.

You see, the winter break had felt so incredibly normal. All five of us had been under one roof. We resumed the familiar rhythms: I bought snacks that she liked, and she immediately reverted to her habit of leaving her dirty clothes on the bathroom floor after she showered. On evenings when she hung out with friends, we waited until she returned home to turn off the outside lights and lock the front door. It was just like old times.

But as I watched her recede from view down the sidewalk, I realized that her default absence, not her daily presence, is the new normal for our family now. The winter break was a break from the routine, but this? This is the reality; this is the routine. 

That's why the second college drop-off hit harder than the first. I know how quickly semesters pass, which is why I know how the breaks between those semesters pass even more quickly. Even though I've always known it, this second drop-off reinforced that our time with our kids is finite. We raise them so they can leave and live their lives, as it should be. Circle of life stuff.

Still, I'd like to add that before she turned the corner and disappeared from view entirely, she looked back over her shoulder and smiled. I'll take it and treasure it in my heart.

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