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    A Note from Home

    A letter from one parent—with hints of what your own mom and dad might be feeling right now.

    Ruth Senter

    Dear Nick,

    I drove by the local college on my way home from the grocery store and saw they've put up a big blue-and-white striped tent. It reminded me that this is the week the freshmen come. It also reminded me of the week you went off to college.

    In some ways, you'd been leaving for college since you entered high school. Your guidance counselor started talking to you right away about college fairs, ACTs and SATs. I think you even attended a college fair in the fall of your freshman year, and you came home with a pile of brochures that ended up collecting dust under your bed.

    I remember when your first college information packet arrived in the mail. You kept looking through the viewbook to find the pretty girls. I knew one college information packet would accomplish its actual purpose, and you'd be convinced that college was right for you.

    Not that I would have wanted it any different. I didn't want to miss the fun of watching you plan for college—of seeing your excitement the day you finally made your decision. You came bounding down the stairs and called out, "Well. This is the day. I've made my choice." And then you said the name of your college with as much pleasure as if you'd just won a million bucks.

    You and your dad and I had a party, right then and there. We each celebrated with a whopping bowl of your favorite cookies 'n' cream ice cream. I saw the sparkle in your eye. For all practical purposes, you were already wearing your blue and orange college football uniform.

    Dad and I celebrated. But we were also bracing ourselves for the day you'd start lugging your stuff out the door and loading up the car. A parent can't really prepare for that day, but we tried.

    For example, I remember promising myself I would not cry in front of you. I did not want to diminish the joy of your day. For all my promises to myself that I would give you plenty of space, I have to tell you this: It wasn't as easy as it looked.

    I mean, moms and dads don't just suddenly stop being parents. For 18 years your dad and I were the ones who knew most about you—where you were, how you were feeling, what you'd eaten (or hadn't eaten) for breakfast, what you were wearing. You just don't live that closely to someone for 18 years and then suddenly get used to the fact they're not living in your house anymore.

    I knew your empty room was going to bother me. Maybe that's why I seemed to want you to hang around the house a little more your last week home. Maybe that's why that last week I stood talking to your friends longer than usual when they dropped by to go somewhere with you—while you stood by the door, jingling your car keys.

    I knew I was going to miss sitting down with you every evening at dinner and hearing about your day. I knew I was going to worry a little about you eating right and staying healthy.

    For all the emotion of those last weeks before you left, I think we all knew everything would be OK. Your dad and I had prayed many times about your college decision. You had prayed. You had planned carefully. So, even though I felt the lump growing in my throat and my eyes getting moist when the time came for that final goodbye, we could drive out of that dormitory parking lot and not look back.

    And somehow, I knew you wouldn't look back either. You would be on the next exciting adventure. And truly, Nick, I wouldn't want it any other way.

    I love you,


    P.S. I did cry when we got home. So did your dad.

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