In September of 1979, I loaded my blue Mazda GLC with boxes of clothes, a comforter and sheets featuring Kliban the Cat and my record player. I'm sure I did this because I know I lived in an apartment about half a mile from the campus of UCLA and I have photos of that bed with the cat all over it, to prove it.
But I don't remember leaving home. No one remembers it. There was no one there to witness it.
My parents were in the middle of a divorce. Not the time to feel sad at the oldest child leaving home. Home itself was already gone.
Today, when Jon and I unloaded boxes of stuff into Noah's college apartment, I didn't cry. The "first child leaves home" sadness hasn't settled in yet. Instead, I saw the realization of a tiny hope that was birthed nineteen years ago when Noah was born. I wanted more than anything to be married to Jon, his father, when he left for college. I wanted to buy him toilet paper, to wash his clothes and bleach out the stains before he left home (whites currently soaking downstairs as I type), to "oo" and "ah" over his roommates and to organize his chest of drawers.
Today, I saw it all... the bed under the little window in his attic room, his collection of books (Pride and Prejudice, his anthology of Shakespeare plays, his Role Playing Game guides and his collection of linguistics literature), the posters that went from bedroom to apartment. All there, reassuringly Noah and home but in this new exciting setting.
"We've done it," I told Jon the other night. I felt proud of us. It's no small achievement to pay for sports, braces, education, clothes and vacations for each child, and then to take on college without too much trepidation. It's even more satisfying to still be married and to be glad about it.
I thought about all the thousands of conversations Noah and I have had, the one where we were driving at night and we talked about faith and his future. I was struggling with our withdrawal from church, with my need to know what kind of Christian I am before I simply adopt a church's belief system. I felt badly about it for him, for the kids.
He said, "Mom, I know you're having questions. The thing is, I still believe very much the way we always have. But I know the day will come when I too have questions. When it does, I know that you will be someone I can turn to and you won't turn me away."
I thought of that today as I wiped the dust off his desk, as I packed his Bible and biblical Greek notes in with all his other books, as I watched the boy-man go off to live on his own and figure out how to be an adult. Like I did when I went off to college and began that same journey that continues even today.
How can I be sad? It's all turning out so beautifully.