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.
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.
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.
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.