Author Archives: Swistle

Misc

Here is something I had in high school, and would like to find again now: friends I can turn to and say, “Hey, you know what I want? DOUGHNUTS. Do you want to go get a dozen different doughnuts and eat a bite of each one??”—and the friends say “Oh hell yes” and nobody, NOBODY, says anything about “being so bad,” we just eat the doughnuts because they taste good and this is a fun idea. And now we are older and we like coffee, which makes the whole thing even better.

I don’t know if you saw the happy update on this post that I DID get into the pottery class after all! I’d emailed and asked if they had a waiting list (the site is a little old-school, so I thought they might have one even though there was no way to access it online), and I got an email back saying actually they had one more opening in that class if I wanted it, and I DID want it, and so now I am in! I am very excited! I haven’t yet acquired the cheap washable fake-croc-type shoes I want (Kay W. mentioned in the comments that it is nicer to rinse off one’s shoes rather than ruin them, and that sounds like a solid plan), so I’m going to wear my tall pink polka-dotted rain boots! I am going to be THE CUTEST! Also, you are all getting lumpy mugs for Christmas!

I have a peeve to report, which is that one of my favorite radio stations got rid of their perfectly good normal unnoticeable DJs and have switched to a Bratty Assh0le format: guys laughing in a hysterical high-pitched grating way about crude/mean things and thinking it’s edgy to mention dild0s and b00bs just like the grown-ups—and this is on MORNING RADIO. But I’m reluctant to change that pre-set, because I still like the music when they are playing it instead of using the toilet-flush sound effect.

Well. One cannot have everything one’s own way. One cannot expect to get into the already-full pottery class AND keep the normal DJs. Somewhere else in my broadcast area there is someone who tried to get into the pottery class and could not, and it is making them feel better that at least their favorite radio station got those hilarious new guys who crack themselves up with all those “That’s what she said!” jokes.

Night Sadness

I typed the title of this post, and then I opened up the archives, thinking maybe I had already written on this topic. The first match was another post, with the very same title! …Oh, it’s the draft of this post.

I did mention it in a post called Day Sadness (written about nine years ago when I had an infant and two toddlers and two elementary school kids, hmm, I wonder if that had anything to do with anything, well it’s all a rich tapestry):

Last night I had Night Sadness (lying awake thinking of sad and oppressive things, and all the ways in which I have failed / am failing / will fail), and usually sleep cures that—-but this morning I woke up with Day Sadness. It feels like I do the same thing day in and day out, and like it’s never going to change, and like I’m never going to handle anything right, and like the world is a bad and stupid place. I know that’s not true, but what I know doesn’t have much to do with it.

And I mentioned it in a post called Accommodations, written about six years ago; William was about ten years old then, and I’d forgotten about this:

William gets Night Sadness: feeling in the evening or around bedtime that everything is too awful and sad and hopeless to be dealt with at all.

I think the second excerpt captures the feeling more accurately. The first excerpt’s “Lying awake thinking of every dumb thing I ever said/did” can be PART of Night Sadness, but it’s not the DEFINING part; the defining part is awful/sad/hopeless/despair/everything.

What separates Night Sadness from other moods is: (1) it happens near bedtime, and (2) the only cure is sleep, and (3) the cure works. It can be brought on by over-tiredness, or it can just happen when normal tiredness breaks down the usual coping mechanisms, but the ONLY WAY TO DEAL WITH IT is to go to sleep and wake up the next morning. There is no talking it out, there is no reasoning it out, there is no “have a hot bath and a glass of wine and write in a gratitude journal”-ing it out: just get to sleep. If necessary, using benadryl, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, hard liquor NOT IN COMBINATION WITH OTHER THINGS, etc.

ANYWAY. That post that mentions William having Night Sadness is very encouraging to me, because what I came here to write about is Henry having it. And William had it six years ago, when he was Henry’s age, and I didn’t even REMEMBER that. So that gives me hope for the Henry situation.

Henry has it somewhat more severely, however. A few times recently, he’s gotten such a bad case of Night Sadness, he’s actually thrown up. He gets more and more upset and anxious, and nothing seems to help, and then he throws up and feels better. This seems to me to be crossing the line between “I’m sorry, child, but you’ve inherited your mother’s Night Sadness genes; the jury is still out on whether you’ve got her unreliable ankles” and “Let’s call the pediatrician.” But I haven’t called the pediatrician. Because I am very, very, very, very, very, very, very reluctant to get any kid into the system of Mental Issues, and particularly when pre-existing conditions are such a current and applicable topic. But of course I don’t want to put something off that should be dealt with, or let him suffer with something he doesn’t have to suffer with. On the other hand, it’s not happening often. And William outgrew it.

For my own treatment, the essential piece is recognizing the particular mood as Night Sadness. This does not work with most mental issues (like when my therapist thought that if I REALIZED my anxieties were irrational, those anxieties would MAGICALLY DISAPPEAR!) (no, I ALREADY REALIZE they’re irrational, Genius, which is WHY I AM HERE), but it does help me somewhat with night sadness: I think “Nope. I recognize this. This is Night Sadness,” and I can get benadryl or a tranquilizer or a swift double shot of vodka on board and be asleep while still noping. So my natural inclination is to get Henry to be able to use a similar coping mechanism. I am worried that if I instead consult the doctor, Henry will get put on a daily medication that is not as safe as an occasional benadryl. I am worried there will be Referrals, and Diagnoses, and a suggestion that he See Someone once a week, when really what he needs is some occasional help getting to sleep for the next year(s) while he outgrows it as William has, or learns to handle it as I have. But so far, my method is not working on Henry. It is hard to decide how long to wait.

Yum/Yuck

I had to tell a child for the millionth time that we do not yuck another person’s yum. We do not look at something someone else is eating, and express our opinion that their food is gross; we do not observe someone else’s passionate interest and then volunteer, unasked, the information that we think that interest is stupid and boring and a waste of time. Oh, you don’t like every single thing liked by every single other person? HOW INTERESTING, HOW UNIQUE, WELCOME TO THE HUMAN RACE. We can use empathy to consider how bad it would feel to have someone sneering at what WE like, and know that we should not sneer at what THEY like.

Later that same day, I was thinking about how tempting it is, at this stage of parenting, to idealize the earlier stages: I see someone out with a baby in a baby carseat, and I just want to tell her how LOVINGLY I remember it: the sweet little baby companion in the cart, cheeks within easy squeezing-reach! But wait: when I was in that stage, I rejoiced in the times I did NOT have to take the baby with me to the store. And I absolutely did not want to hear how I should cherish every moment. I wanted to hear how cute my baby was, YES. I wanted to be asked how old the baby was and what the baby’s name was, YES. But I did NOT enjoy being told again and again by what seemed like an endless procession of older ladies that I should be appreciating every moment, and that it all went by so fast, and that I would be sorry when it was over that I hadn’t appreciated it more. Because, as I also remember, that stage was filled with a weeping lack of sleep, and babies who cried unless they were held even when I had things to do that were incompatible with that, and blow-out diapers right after baths, and having to constantly assess the well-being of a child who COULD NOT TALK, and treasuring the two minutes I could be by myself in the bathroom, and having fantasies about getting sent to prison so I could be by myself, and so on.

I was NOT cherishing every moment, NOR SHOULD I HAVE if I wanted to continue being counted among the sane: some parts were just TERRIBLE, and we don’t have to pretend they weren’t, let alone feel guilty in advance for not ENJOYING them enough. Hearing someone else claim to have gone through this same stage and to have emerged thinking of it as the best time of her life made me feel like RUNNING SCREAMING INTO THE SEA. Oh, it’s all downhill from here, then? GOOD TO KNOW, BRB FLINGING MYSELF OFF CLIFF. Oh, I’m going to REGRET not CHERISHING the diaper that required me to mop up the baby as best I could with rough brown paper towels in a public bathroom, then wrap his soiled clothes as best I could in more paper towels so that I could get them home, then wrap the baby in a blankie and go back out into the store to buy him a new outfit on the spot so he wouldn’t have to go out into the sharp winter weather without clothes? In the future I will be looking back on this moment as belonging to THE BEST TIME OF MY LIFE? THANK YOU FOR THAT GIANT DOSE OF DESPAIR ABOUT MY SAD FUTURE, OLDER LADY.

(What’s funny is that one of my happy memories ACTUALLY IS the time Elizabeth threw up in the car when my mom and I were almost to Target. She mostly just got it on her clothes, so we stripped her down to her diaper, put her clothes into a plastic bag I kept in the car because car-barfing was not rare, cleaned her up with baby wipes kept in the car for the same reason, and then went into Target and I had the excuse of buying her the darling four-piece mix-and-match Carter’s pink elephant pajamas I’d really wanted to buy her. I went through the line with Elizabeth and the pajamas while my mom waited with the cart and the other kids, and I took her right into the bathroom and put one set on her, and then we continued shopping and she looked adorable, and I felt so RESOURCEFUL to have handled the whole situation, and so HAPPY to have those cute new pajamas.)

Anyway, thinking of both of those things on the same day made me realize one is the flip of the other: we shouldn’t yuck someone else’s yum—but also, we should try not to yum someone else’s yuck. If we know from personal experience that a particular stage of life is filled with loveliness but also with suckiness, we should avoid rhapsodizing about the loveliness in a way that makes the other person feel as if they can’t admit to any suckiness, or as if they alone are finding it sucky whereas WE found it wreathed in roses and angel-song. When someone else is going through an experience universally acknowledged to be rough (even if also glorious), we should avoid telling them it was the best time of our life, even if we now remember it that way, even if it turns out it actually was. It’s not going to sound like good news to the hearer.

Similarly, I saw someone posting on Facebook about something they were worried about, and someone else commented “I’d love to have that problem,” and then added a mention of her own problem, which was indeed worse, and yet the original person’s complaint was not about something anyone would “love to have.” It should go without saying that we do not tell someone else that their worry/problem/issue is actually a POSITIVE thing when compared to our own problems. We do not yum someone else’s yuck, or act as if we think they should be yumming it.

I remember what was my favorite thing to hear, as I was walking through a store with a fussing baby and fretful toddler. I would be fighting my way through a store, and someone would hold a door for me and I would thank her fervently, and she would say, “Oh, no problem—I remember those days!” Or if my child was being loud and unpleasant in a store, I loved to get a sympathetic look from another mom, combined with “Oh I’ve been there!” Do you know what those words told me? That I was one in a long line of women going through this same experience—and that other women had LIVED THROUGH IT. That one day, I would be able to hold the door for someone else, because my hands would be free. And that I would think, “Oh, how nice that my hands are free,” instead of thinking, “OH GOD, MY HANDS ARE FREE AND NOW I AM MISERABLE AND I REGRET NOT REVELING IN WHAT I ONCE THOUGHT WAS MISERY AND NOW PERCEIVE AS PURE JOY WHEN COMPARED TO THE FRESH HELL THAT IS MY LATER LIFE.”

Ceramics Class

Elizabeth went to a wheel-thrown pottery class this summer, and I was really impressed with how good a piece can look even with very little experience. When I went back to pick up her finished things, they gave me a pamphlet about fall classes, and I noticed that they had a ten-session wheel-thrown pottery class for adults.

I had an unusual surge of interest in that idea, quickly followed by all my usual reactions to a surge of interest: new/scary thing, what if I hate it, it seems indulgent, maybe I should wait and see, it’s kind of a long drive, what if I have scheduling conflicts, how can one justify frivolous things in this time of worldwide crises and sweeping injustice not to mention college costs, etc. But I sensed in myself a rare mood of ability to overcome, so I went and got my credit card before I could lose that surge of interest.

As I clicked through the various links to get to the sign-up, I psyched myself up: It’s good to try new things! New things are good for aging brains! Maybe you’ll love it, and if you don’t, it’s okay! It’s okay to do things like this! I felt almost dazed: I was ACTUALLY SIGNING UP FOR IT!!! And EARLY—not at the last minute! And with so little agonizing! I thought maybe I would even ask a friend to do it with me, but I sensed in that idea an excuse to postpone registration, so I continued on: I could sign up and THEN mention it to a friend.

And the class was full. No waiting list. I feel deflated. I was doing it, I was actually DOING it!—and then it was not available. I can do it next session, but that is not comforting: I suspect I will NOT do it next session. It’s so rare for interest to merge with the ability to take action.

I considered trying a different class. I could learn basket-weaving. But there was no surge of interest. I could learn drawing/sketching. But eh. Painting? A slight feeling of interest, followed by total loss of same.

[Edited to add:] Okay, I checked further, and there is a one-session class that makes just one bowl or mug. I signed up for that. If I like it, I can take the full course next session.

[Edited a second time to add:]
I also sent an email to the art-class place, asking if by any chance there was a waiting list even though there was no waiting list mentioned. And I got an email back saying actually there was one place left in the class, and if I wanted it I should call this number. I went back to the website and tried to register that way, because I did not want to call, but it still said the class was full. So I clenched my teeth and made the phone call, and now I am in the class. I am in the class! My cheeks feel hot and my eyes feel wide. I realize there are people who decide on and get into a doctorate program with less fuss and angst, but we are who we are, and now we are someone who is full of fuss and angst AND ALSO enrolled in a pottery class!

Waiting for Email From a College Student

I’m getting together tonight with some girlfriends. We’re going to drink a lot and get choked up about our kids being in college now. I think it’s going to be just the ticket.

Rob is sending occasional indicators that he is still alive: a short video of a fire drill; an email about a detail of financial aid he needed to take care of. But he is not telling us about his classes or his teachers or his friends, or about what the weekends are like, or about what he’s eating, or about what it’s like to suddenly be sharing a room with a stranger, or if the work is more or less than what he expected, or if he’s homesick or if he feels happy and free or WHAT. I sent him an email with some questions, and he answered to say that he’d answer it later. It’s one of my least-favorite answers to get, in part because experience has taught me that people who answer an email that way generally DON’T follow up with a real answer later.

When I was in college I was allowed to call my parents once a week, on Sundays when the calling rates were lower, and they had to cut me off at an hour; I wrote letters/emails in between calls. I told Paul this and he shook his head pityingly. I asked, did he communicate with HIS parents in college? He thought he might have, a couple of times, but he wasn’t sure. I asked, did they communicate with HIM? He thought they might have, a couple of times, but he wasn’t sure. I shook my head pityingly. We both checked our phones to see if there was anything new from Rob.

I’m not going to nag him about it. This is a busy transition. He is SUPPOSED to be working on breaking free from us now.

It helps that I have the other kids, though right now it’s making me more sensitive about any of them being away. William was at work this weekend and I found it made me fretful: I wanted him to come back home, and was counting the hours. Why would it matter, when he just sits at his computer or does homework at the table when he IS home? It’s like I’ve hit my Maximum Child Absence Limit with Rob gone, and so now everyone else has to be home. (I don’t feel that way about the school day: I still enjoy seeing the backs of them in the morning.)

Books: My Name Is Lucy Barton, and Anything Is Possible

I have just finished the second of two books that have left me feeling mildly dumbstruck because they were so exactly what I like to read: My Name Is Lucy Barton and Anything Is Possible, both by Elizabeth Strout.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

I should not have been surprised, since I felt similarly about one of this author’s earlier books, Olive Kitteridge. (I know it’s been made into a movie. And there is probably no actress I trust more than Frances McDormand. But I haven’t seen it yet. Don’t urge me. Let nature take its own course, one way or the other.) What I remember is finishing Olive Kitteridge and then being very disappointed by Amy and Isabelle, but I don’t remember anything about why. After reading these two books, I think I need to go back and give Amy and Isabelle another chance.

The books are almost like collections of short stories, but completely interwoven, so you learn more about the various characters through their roles in other characters’ stories. Both books are about the same batch of people, so they should be read one right after the other, starting with Lucy Barton.

College Student Care Packages

I would like to collect ideas for care packages for all the college students in our various midsts. I have sent Rob two boxes so far, though I’m counting them as one. The first was when I had to ship him some mail that came for him right after he left, and it needed to get there quickly, so I used a small flat-rate priority box and stuffed the remaining cargo area with granola bars, Belvita Bites, Ritz crackers-and-cheese—basically one of everything we had for school lunches. Later the same day, I sent the second: an 18-pack of microwavable Kraft Macaroni and Cheese:

(image from Amazon.com)

I’d had this in mind as something to buy a big box of and then put a couple servings in each care package, so that he doesn’t have to store 18-packs of various foods. But then he sent a photo to a friend of himself searching online for “Kraft Mac no milk or butter” while holding a box of regular Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and I upped the priority. Plus, there was an online coupon. Plus, we have Amazon Prime, so I could ship it to him directly for free. The cup kind might be better and/or more convenient, but would only ship free with $25 worth of stuff, so I’m starting with the packets and we’ll see if those are okay.

Here are some of the other things I have on my Care Package Ideas List (not to send all at once, of course, but just to consider for each box):

vitamins
his favorite pens
his favorite little pocket notebooks
trail mix
brownies
seed bars
candy
granola bars
beef jerky
breakfast-type things
microwaveable food (popcorn, Easy Mac, ravioli cups, instant oatmeal, Ramen, etc.)
Tabasco sauce
Altoid mint tins
gift card to local pizza place
new toothbrush
Dentek flossers
socks and underwear
photos of the cats
letters from the other kids

I would very much like to know what things you like/plan to send to college students, and I also very much want to know what you liked to receive when you were a college student. I liked to receive candy and snacks, and once my mom sent this giant orange tissue-paper flower (flat, so it could hang on a wall) and I hung that on the wall of dorm rooms and apartments until it finally fell apart. My parents also used to send dried fruit, which was nice to have on hand, and at Easter they lined a box with Easter grass and put an Easter basket’s worth of candy in there, and that was one of my favorite care packages ever.

Post-College-Drop-Off Moody; Books

I have some books to mostly-recommend, but I am feeling moody. I went grocery shopping for the first time since bringing Rob to college, and I kept getting little unexpected shocks. The amount of groceries doesn’t change much when going from seven people to six—but there are a few things that only Rob eats, or that he’s the main eater-of. So instead of getting a pack of bologna, I didn’t get a pack of bologna, because he’s the only one who eats it. And instead of getting another giant bottle of Tabasco sauce, I thought probably I could wait on that, because he and Paul are the only ones who use it. And so on throughout the store. Little weird pangs.

And some happy feelings too: “Ooo, Easy Mac! I wonder if he’d like that? He could make it in the dorm microwave!” “And here are some little Chef Boyardee ravioli bowls! I could send him one and he could see if he likes them!” “Breakfast bars are on sale; maybe he’d eat those on days he’s running too late to go to breakfast?” “What a cute little jar of Tabasco; that might be good in a care package!”

I am still waking up in the morning and doing my usual mental inventory, and then arriving with a startled feeling on the news that Rob is not here and is at college far away. He’s been away for a week before; he’s never been gone this long. And now this is “coming home TO VISIT” territory, rather than “coming home” territory. This is still his legal residence, but he doesn’t live here anymore. But I remember so clearly shopping for his crib. There were so many choices! We ended up following the Consumer Reports advice to get a cheap but sturdy crib and then spend the savings on a good crib mattress.

Sending a kid to college is an aging transition for the parent. I’m old enough to have a kid in college = I’m a certain level of old. This morning I noticed a couple of white hairs at the nape of my neck, among the ones that never get long enough to fit in a hairclip. Obviously those white ones must have been there before we took Rob to college. The skin on my underchin and throat is looking increasingly fragile. Two of my former classmates have grandchildren. There’s such a clear contrast to all those kids just launching now, just starting out now, all the big decisions still ahead of them.

I’m trying not to text him or email him too much. His college strongly recommends that during the first few weeks the parents leave it to the students to initiate conversation. But then I got nervous that he’d think we didn’t care about him and weren’t interested in what he was doing, so I emailed him to let him know that the college said that.

A number of years ago, a boy from our town went to college and died soon after in a fraternity hazing incident. I think part of the reason that story lingers, besides the obvious horror and tragedy and STUPID POINTLESSNESS of it, is that, at least for me, my gut instincts are misinforming me on whether or not it is safe for My Baby to be so far away. Just as when he weaned as an infant, just as when I put him on the bus for first grade, my feelings are that this is WRONG and BAD and I need to STOP THIS FROM HAPPENING. I am consciously overriding those feelings, because I know that it is good and right for him to go. But I imagine that other mom thinking, shocked, “I was right. I was right.” And every year there are parents whose worst fears are justified.

That’s too low. That’s too low to be thinking. He’s having a good time, and I will hope that he will not be one of the kids who dies because of alcohol in a funnel or whatever. It’s really very few kids that happens to. I really do mostly feel happy and good about this. The college’s convocation was streamed live, so I got to watch it, and so many of the speakers were talking about how diversity is crucial and good, and science is crucial and good, and how we need to support each other and have each other’s back at times like this, and how we need to work together to make a better future. He is living in a good place. He is doing what he is supposed to do next. If we kept him home with us he could still die.

I am having some regrets about my own college experience. I keep thinking how amazing it is that he’s in the strange stage of life where he is surrounded by ONLY people his age: so much friend potential! so much romance potential! relationships everywhere he looks, in a situation where usual social boundaries are waived because everyone is new and it’s okay to approach and talk to anyone! Not that he will realize that. Not that I realized that, when it was me. I wish I’d talked to a lot more people. I wish I’d made more friends. I wish I’d dated more people.

Hey, how about the books. It’s been awhile since I’ve read anything I’ve wanted to tell other people to read, and none of these books are the sort where I’d grab your upper arm too tightly while telling you to read it. But I liked them.

(image from Amazon.com)

Spoonbenders, by Daryl Gregory. This is about a family of people who have minor supernatural abilities: one can move a small item, for example, if he practices ahead of time; one can tell if people are lying. For the first large part of the book (a third? half?), I was kind of bored, and/or tense in a bad way (nervous about someone else’s money situation, for example). Then suddenly we switch to the point of view of someone else, and everything changes, and I was all in.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

The Almost Sisters, by Joshilyn Jackson. Many, many times I was yanked out of the story by noticing the author’s writing. Still, I liked the story and was very interested in it, and I found myself thinking of it a lot, both during and afterward.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

The Secrets of My Life, by Caitlyn Jenner. I am very particular about autobiographies. They have to be the right mix of insider info, snark, name-dropping, self-awareness, humble self-mockery, and confiding chumminess. I like to come away feeling FONDER of the person who wrote it. I expect, and will tolerate, certain levels of narcissism, self-indulgence, and one-sided storytelling, as long as I get the balance in dirt and charm. I wasn’t familiar with Bruce Jenner before the Kardashians, and I was only the baseline level of aware of the Kardashians, but somewhere I saw a review of this book that made me want to read it, so I tried it—and I was glad I did. I liked it. I found it the right level of informative and charming, and I did indeed come away feeling fonder.

What It Was Like To Take a Child to College

Every college has its own drop-off system. But I can tell you how it went when we dropped off Rob at his college.

Beforehand, looking at all the papers, the process seemed overwhelming. Here’s your group! Here’s your check-in time! Don’t forget this! Don’t forget that! Don’t bring this or that! This lot is okay to park in and this one isn’t! Put this sign in your windshield! Label all your things! And you may remember the part where the college told us only a couple of weeks ago that there were assigned check-in times and that it was “CRUCIAL” to follow them—but when I emailed, they said no, those were just suggested times, an answer that suffused me with both intense relief and intense annoyance. Rule-makers, do not TOY WITH your rule-followers.

One way I calmed down was by figuring that it is to the school’s advantage to make things go smoothly, even more than it is to mine; and that the school has way, WAY more experience with this than I do. I printed out the labels and maps, but I trusted to some extent that even if we showed up at the gates without any information at all and without following any of the guidelines for car-marking and luggage-labeling, there would be people there who would guide us through it. This turned out to be 100% correct.

There were signs at the entrance. There were signs at every fork. There were people at every stage to meet us. There were people at every stage to lean down to our car window and make sure we’d been though the necessary previous stage. There were people wearing college t-shirts EVERYWHERE, and they were cheerful about answering anything. I was worried that someone would question us about arriving early and I would have to explain, but no one noticed or cared or viewed any information that would have told them that that was what was happening; it was a complete non-issue.

The whole thing from arrival to departure took about 2.5 hours. A large part of this was waiting in the first line: arriving cars were directed into a series of lines by very! spirited! student helpers, and then the incoming students could get out and walk over to a table where they could pick up their room keys, IDs, student-orientation-group assignment, and goody bag. Rob came back to the car and then we waited for a long time to be included in a batch of cars sent on ahead to the luggage-drop-off part of the process. The spirited helpers came over periodically to chat, tell us their majors, ask if we had questions, apologize for the wait, etc. I’d started leaking tears as soon as I saw the welcoming party, so I was glad Paul took over here, but no one seemed at all surprised to see tears. One student helper said sympathetically to me, “Is this your first college drop-off?,” and all I could do was nod. “Next time you’ll be an expert!,” she said.

When we got to the head of our line, we were sent in a little batch of about four cars to the next stop: it was basically “take a right, and then your next right,” not anything difficult, and there were signs directing us. An adult with a clipboard met us and told us how it was going to go down: we were going to pull into a little cul-de-sac and park; we were going to unload all the stuff onto the sidewalk/grass; and then one of us was to drive the car far, far away to another lot; a shuttle could bring that driver back to us. We parked as directed, and a student helper came over to introduce herself and tell us where/how we could sign out a luggage cart. Other student helpers were going cheerfully from car to car, helping with the unloading and asking where people were from and what they were majoring in.

Paul drove the car away while Rob got a luggage cart and loaded it up. William and I stayed with the rest of the stuff (did I mention William came with us? William came with us) while Rob went off to find the dorm/room; I suggested he ask one of the student helpers but otherwise let him figure it out himself. He came back after awhile with an empty luggage cart, and the rest of the stuff fit on it and Paul wasn’t back yet and wasn’t answering texts, so William and I went with Rob this time.

The hallway was dim and discouraging, and his room was surprisingly small. But I took heart remembering how small my college dorm room looked to me at first, and how quickly I got used to it. And hallways don’t need to be wide or pretty. Paul arrived from the shuttle and met us in the room, after asking for help from a number of friendly student helpers.

Annnnnnd then we hugged Rob goodbye and left. There were “parent orientation” activities that whole day and the next day, but our impression reading over the information was that these were designed to pry parents away from the students. Plus, we needed to get back to the other kids.

We’d discussed this with Rob ahead of time and he knew we were not staying for the parent stuff, but right as we were leaving he got a little anxious, asking if we were sure we were supposed to go yet, and also asking us to double-check to make SURE he got everything out of the car, and asking us to keep our phones handy in case he suddenly thought of something he forgot and needed to contact us. Because we’d checked in early, his dorm floor was virtually empty; this would have been an upside of going at our assigned time. I’ll bet a few hours later there was an RA greeting everyone and lots of noise and kids.

We left him to do his own unpacking. I’d seen stuff about parents wanting to unpack the things, and how kids should be patient if mom wants to make up the bed for the last time, but I didn’t have much of that impulse: it seemed like he should put his own stuff away in his own room. That’s when I feel like I’m taking possession of a new room/apartment/house: when I figure out where to put all my things. Also, he’s been making up his own bed for years. Also, it seemed like a good way for him to kill time before other people arrived.

It did feel distressing to leave him there and walk out of the dorm. That would have been the upside of staying for the parent stuff: it’s a more gradual goodbye. But I was able to talk myself through it, especially with Paul there also talking himself through it. I would have a panicky thought (for example, “What about LUNCH?? We didn’t find the cafeteria with him or go over with him how to use his ID card to get meals!!”), and then both of us would ping-pong assurances back and forth: “He has a map: he can find it,” “Finding this stuff on his own is a GOOD thing,” “He probably still has some car snacks with him,” “He was supposed to check in at lunch time, so there should be an RA around by then, and he’ll help,” “Every single staff member here KNOWS they’re dealing with incoming freshmen who don’t know how to do anything,” “If he misses a single meal he will in no way perish.”

I found it comforting to remember myself being at college those first few days. It was kind of overwhelming and weird, yes, but did I feel as if I were physically and mentally incapable of finding the dining hall? Heck no. Did I feel as if there was no way I could choose my classes, see my advisor, find my way to another building on campus? Bitch please, I was a GROWN WOMAN. Plus, just as the college has a personal interest in making drop-off easier, they have a personal interest in getting the students settled in and feeling comfortable: student orientation is ABOUT getting STUDENTS all ORIENTED so they know where they are and what to do and how to get there.

On the way out I asked if we could stop at the bookstore, because I thought it would make me feel much, much, much better to buy a college coffee mug to drink out of moodily the next day. We’d thought the bookstore might be mobbed, but it was not at all. I got a coffee mug. And a car-window decal. And some pens. Everything was so overpriced, it was silly: four cheapo freebie/handout-quality pens I probably could have taken for free at the Admissions office, $7.98. Coffee mug, $14.98. FREE ADVERTISING FOR THE COLLEGE car sticker: $6.98. WHATEVER. I PAID IT. AND I WAS GLAD.

I continued to feel distressed as we drove away. I kept thinking of anxious things, some of them marginally legit and some more along the lines of “What if we were supposed to stay with him until an RA arrived????” Mostly I was bothered by the mental picture I had of him sitting alone in his room not knowing what to do about lunch. So after about an hour, when William texted Rob, “So how’s college life?,” and Rob texted back, “Pretty good. Having a turkey sandwich at the dining hall,” that took a LOT of weight off my mind: he left his room! he left his dorm! he found the dining hall and figured out how to use it! HE’S HAVING LUNCH!! SOMEONE FED MY BABY!!!

When we got home, we found we could look up the student orientation schedule online and see what he was likely doing each day. Also, there’s a special college Facebook group for parents of students at this college, and they’re being good about posting pictures and videos of orientation activities. (We’re seeing pictures and videos of the “parent orientation,” too, and it looks…dorky. We’re glad we didn’t stay for that.) Paul and I are jumpy about information right now: when the college live-streamed the convocation ceremony, and the camera panned the crowd beforehand, I was about three inches from the screen trying unsuccessfully to find Rob. Paul will cross the house to tell me that according to the schedule Rob is now playing board games with his orientation group.

The whole thing has seemed one part surreal, one part anticlimactic, and one part distressing-at-normal-expected-levels. It’s surreal because it’s Really Actually Happening: this thing I thought about for so long, starting with a weeping fit about it when he was a newborn and I was really tired. Anticlimactic because all that worry, all that stress, all that planning, and then it’s like…”Okay, see ya!” and The Big Emotional Moment is over and life continues; plus, this has been a long road of predictable milestones, so although this is one of the big ones it’s also just the next milestone. Distressing because of course it’s distressing: he’s been living with me since conception and now he lives somewhere else and I only have access to what he chooses to tell me about his life; this is not a small thing or minor transition.

The peak stress for me was the day before we left; once we were on the road I felt better. The second peak of distress was right at leaving time, but then that turned into more of a surreal feeling. The third peak was when I realized we hadn’t figured out his lunch.

I felt better when we got the text from the dining hall; when he emailed the next day and he already had some people to hang out with; and when I had two stiff shots of gin out of my new coffee mug.

Swim Leggings Report

Annoyingly, I often wake up around 4:30, needing to pee. This is somewhat okay on a normal weekday, because I need to get up between 5:00 and 5:30 anyway and it helps me not be so resentful about needing to get out of bed; I can doze a bit until right before the alarm. But on a weekend, I want to get up and go to the bathroom, but then be able to go back to sleep; sometimes this works and sometimes not. This morning, however, there was a spider on the toilet paper roll, and I didn’t see her at first, so I’m up, I’m up.

I finally swim-tested the swim leggings, and they are up there on the list of the best things I have ever owned. I’d worried the high-waisted bikini bottoms I wore under them would make me feel swathed in layers, but they did not: instead I felt snug and comfy and all held together. I didn’t worry about my tankini top rising up and exposing a circle of midsection, because the high-waisted bikini bottom went up to my ribcage (and I am long-torsoed—on a shorter-torsoed person, you might get coverage all the way to the bikini-top region). It was the first time in my post-adolescent life that I have walked in a swimsuit (the walk where you can’t have your towel around you anymore but you’re not in the water yet) without INTERNALLY DYING OF HORRIFIED SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS.

Some people asked last time about the length. For scale, I am between 5’8″ and 5’9″ but, as I mentioned, long-torsoed, which is the nice way to say short-legged; and I wear plus sizes. On me, the swim leggings fully covered my knees and went just a little bit below them—basically knee-breech length. I did go back and order the smaller size (my size is right between two sizes, so I ordered the larger ones first because it’s better for morale to try something on and have it too big rather than too small), and they’re exactly right; I’m keeping the larger size because people tend to put on weight with age, so one day I will likely put on the ones that fit now, be dismayed, and be glad to have the larger size all set to go. What I’m wondering now is if I should order MULTIPLE ADDITIONAL PAIRS. What if they don’t sell them anymore after this year? Then I need to buy a lifetime supply NOW.