The Drop Off

College

“Oh!”

“What?”

“I think I forgot my shoes.”

Flashback to twenty-five minutes earlier, Sophie walking out of the house barefoot. Me: “Hey, are your shoes in the car?”

Eye roll.

We just got back on track. Not from the shoe incident (although we did return home to get her shoes) but from a missed turn. A thirty-minute detour. As a family, we’re terrible travelers. None of us—Susan, Sophie and me—like driving, and we hate being car-passengers only slightly less.

You would think we’d want to get the nonsense of driving over as quickly as possible. “Hey dad, do you like Duck Donuts? There’s one near Harrisburg. It’s only twenty-five minutes out of the way.”

Every trip is like this. Not long ago, before an eight-hour drive to Vermont, Sophie admonished me. “You don’t need to drink a gallon of coffee before we leave. It would be nice not to stop six times to use the bathroom.” She’s got a point, but I’m hardly the only one. A rest stop at lunchtime: “Roy Rogers is the only restaurant? Can we stop somewhere else?”

Susan’s parents live in Gettysburg, just a mile from us. They moved to town three years after we did. They probably realized the chances of us driving to visit them more often than once every few years were slim. Susan’s brother and sister live six and eleven hours away (oh, add an extra hour for my coffee disposal stops). We rarely visit them, but they each visit Gettysburg a couple of times a year. “Are you guys coming to Portland this summer?”

“No, I’m sure we’ll see you in Gettysburg.” Selfish? Undoubtedly. I’d rather undergo dental procedures for twelve hours than sit in a car for that long.

Today is another trip to University of Vermont. Tomorrow is move in day for Sophie. As we walked into the house after our last Vermont trip, Eli said “I’m not driving back there again to drop Sophie off at school. I’m not going.” It’s just as well, the car is packed full with stuff—a lifetime of accumulation plus a new fan and vacuum as well.

Apparently, I’m lying. We’re two hours outside Burlington, Susan just exclaimed “I’m having such a fun day!” Susan and Sophie are having an animated conversation. It started with songs from Hamilton, and ranged from the Revolutionary War to slavery to modern prison labor law violations. Engrossing for them, but of course there is that missed turn mentioned earlier. I didn’t join the conversation because I’m sitting in the back seat. I can’t really hear.

Two days from now, Susan and I return home, empty car, one kid lighter. Probably a silent car. I expect us both to be lost in melancholy thoughts, hoping to get home to Eli as quickly as possible. When my kids were toddlers, I dreamed of the day I would drop them off at college. An abundance of time to spend on me, me, me. Now I realize that I’m just losing uninterrupted access to one of my best friends in the world.

22 thoughts on “The Drop Off

    • Ah, I’m making life-long memories. Good to know. I took the unprecedented step of bringing a nice button up shirt to wear during move-in. Thought it might help if Sophie’s father actually seemed like an adult.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haha. Sophie will appreciate that. You’ll both grow as she begins this new chapter on her own. It’s difficult letting go for us parents, but she will love you even more as she becomes an adult.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I was very Melancholy when Younger Daughter moved out. She and I went to concerts, museums and hockey games together. We spent hours talking about random stuff.
    It’s a rare day that we don’t text at least. She’s the only person I really talk on the phone to.
    She moved out over a year ago, and she’s still just as close.

    I think it’s harder for you because the Kootie kept everyone home. If not for lockdown you wouldn’t be missing the quantity of time…
    Trust me, the quality will still be there!
    Melancholy, yes. Bittersweet, yes. Still best friends, YES.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is sweet. My parents and I have always had a bond and it oddly came back around after my accident to where we are living together again. At Sophie’s age, I wouldn’t have predicted I would live with my parents again (and ENJOY it) but I am certainly grateful for this time with them again! Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. I always love your perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d be pretty worried about the concept of Sophie returning to Gettysburg after graduation. There isn’t much there for her. We’ve all toyed with the idea of collectively moving out west after the kids are out of school.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my Jeff. I can feel your sadness. I don’t have kids, but any life change seems to get more challenging as we get older!! Also, congrats to your badass daughter and her new adventure. GO Sophie GO 💕

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  4. That last line! 💔 It makes me realise how difficult it must have been for my dad to drop me off at the airport when I moved to the UK…

    I hope the drive back home goes well, and best of luck to your daughter!

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  5. What a sweet reflection on the letting go of parenting. Every time my children drove away from the house as college students or young adults home for a visit my heart broke a tiny bit around the edges, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. God forbid they would want to return permanently, because that would mean that their eyes hadn’t really been opened to the possibilities of an independent life journey! Let’s hope COVID doesn’t interrupt her year; such a hard time to be beginning.

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  6. I cried every time we dropped one of our kids off at college. But when they all left home, there really was more time for me, me, me. You get used to it! Until grandkids come along.

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