Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Drop Off

You know that the time for your children to leave home will come quickly, although you don't fully realize the speed at which it will come until that day comes.  I know that I spent the four years my son was in high school trying to prepare myself for that day.  In fact, I was probably on mom-overload during his senior year.  I chaperoned every band trip, went to every school event, went to parent-teacher night (probably the ONLY senior mom there). It was almost like he was in Kindergarten again, except without the crayon pictures for me to hang on the refrigerator.

When the day finally came to move him to college, I think we were all just going through the motions, not talking very much, and keeping our feelings in check.  Well, not our daughter, Emma. Emma wears her emotions on her sleeve for all of the world to see.  If there is too much going on in her head or in her current environment, she ends up having a “melt-down”.  Although it had probably been over two years since we had seen Emma have a full-on melt-down (thank you Strattera), she made sure that Derek had a farewell melt-down that morning, just for old time's sake. 

What provoked this melt-down seemed simple at the time.  Emma has a pair of very short shorts (read: too short, hoochie momma short, what-kind-of-mother-are-you-to-let-your-daughter-wear-shorts-that-short short).  Yes, it was my fault she even owned them.  She caught me at the end of a shopping trip; “Please mom??  So-and-so has this pair? I’ll only wear them to swim practice, I promise”.  I hate shopping and, because I just wanted to get out of the store, I said yes to that horrible $12.00 pair of shorty-shorts. Needless to say, Emma had decided to put those shorts on for the trip out to WVU.  I’m sure in her mind they were the perfect attire for going to a college where she might see some really cute college guys; however, I did not feel the same way.  I simply asked Emma to change her shorts and, after a heated exchange of “Why not?”, “Because they are inappropriate”, “But they’re comfortable”, “I’m not arguing, change your shorts”, she slipped into an uncontrollable, full-on, screaming, crying melt-down.  

I hate to admit this, I really do, but I was dealing with my own emotions.  I tried to talk to her for a few minutes, but to no avail.  The crying continued, so I did what was right for that moment and walked away, leaving her to her room.  Fortunately, Frank went up and calmly talked to her for a few minutes.  I was waiting for her at the bottom of the steps when she was finally able to collect herself together.  She flew down the stairs and into my open arms.  I held her as tightly as I could and asked her if she knew why she was doing this.  She took a deep breath, and while sobbing heavily managed to cry out “I DON’T WANT DEREK TO GOOOOOO”.  Well that was enough to push me over the edge.  All I could do was to hold her even tighter and stroke her hair.  I knew that my voice would betray me if I tried to say anything to her at that moment.  The heaving sobs gave way to deep breaths and she was finally able to go back upstairs and change into something more appropriate for the trip.

The drive out to WVU was uneventful.  We arrived at the Creative Arts Center (CAC) early, so we went out for lunch.  I dropped Frank and Emma off at Panera to pick up lunch for the three of us and I drove Derek over to Wendy’s.  The drive-through line was long, so Derek and I went inside.  While standing there, two young men ahead of us kept looking at Derek.  One of them finally turned to Derek and asked “Hey man, are you with The Pride?”  Derek stood just a little taller when he calmly answered “Yeah”.
That was a pivotal moment for me.  My son, my child, my little bear, was officially a member of The Pride of West Virginia Mountaineer Marching Band.  This is where he belongs. This is going to be his home for the next four years.  This is where my “little man” is going to grow into an amazing “man”, a real grown-up if you will.  He will always be my child, but he will never be my little man again.  It was a very bittersweet yet poignant realization for me.

I’ll skip the details of the registration back at the CAC however I will say that at the end of the marching band meeting everyone stood up and sang the WVU alma matter.  No, I am not a WVU alumni however hearing the song and seeing all of the band members, standing arm-in-arm and singing together made me catch my breath and brought a lump to my throat.  (I was thinking: Stand-down tears, I’ll have no part of you yet).  This was something I missed out on in my life, something my children will not miss out on in theirs.  

When the marching band orientation meeting was finally over, we only had 2 hours to move Derek into his room.  Egads, TWO HOURS?!?!?!?  It only took a few trips of Derek, Frank, Emma, and me taking boxes from the van to his room.  Emma was being very helpful, setting up his new fan, getting his new printer out of the box.  I was putting all of the little things away, Frank was hanging items up in Derek’s closet, and Derek was placing his clothes into his dresser.  As we were putting his lamp together, we quickly realized that his light bulbs had been left behind.  No problem!  Emma and I set out to Kroger’s to get light bulbs and cash for dinner. This was actually a good thing because I found that Kroger’s is less than a five minute walk from Derek’s dorm.  

The unpacking was more difficult than I had imagined and I am so thankful that his roommate was not moving in for another week.  This may sound silly to some of you, but as a mother I wanted to make sure that his new living space was completely ready and unpacked so that when he got home from band camp that night he wouldn’t have to worry about anything except crawling into bed.  We left with his room not quite completely unpacked, but it was sufficient enough.  We left his dorm and headed over to band camp, which is held next to the Coliseum.  

This was the hard part.  This is when I cried.  In fact, I’m tearing up again just thinking about it.  We all gave him a big hug good-bye.  My hug included a few tears which solicited a “You’re crying already??” from Derek.  I held his face in my hands, looking at him, studying the details, eking out “I love you so much and I am so proud of you”.  We watched as he walked over to the practice field to find the tuba section, which will be his new family.  We stayed for a while, watching the band get into position.  Frank was not pushing us to leave, which is when I realized that he had his game face on.  He was not ready to leave Derek at college.  I had to be the one to push us to leave.   

The three of us stopped and ate in Morgantown before heading home.  I felt my throat getting full and my eyes getting teary a couple of times during dinner, but I didn’t actually cry.  I had fully expected that I would cry the entire trip home but I did not.  In fact, I drove us home.  It was quiet for the most part.  Random little memories of Derek growing up kept surfacing; almost like I was playing a movie of his life in my mind.  

We finally made it home around 11:00 that night, so I sent Emma up to bed but I needed to unwind from the drive (and have a drink) before I could fall asleep.  When I went upstairs for the night, I walked into to Emma's room to give her a quick kiss before heading to my room - but she wasn't there.  Usually, if she is not in her bed, chances are I can find her in my bed.  Not this time, and she wasn't in the bathroom either.  I opened Derek's bedroom door and there she was, fast asleep in her big brother's bed.  Frank and I left her there for the night. 

I know Derek is a good person.  I know Derek is a strong person.  I know Derek is an intelligent person.  Although I wish I could be there to watch over him, I know he will be successful in his journey.   

Here are your wings, son.  I know they will carry you far in life.  Please make sure, though, that they always remember to bring you back home to me once in a while.