Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Road Goes On Forever but the Party Ends for Mom

The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.
Sydney J. Harris

If you've ever driven through Texas, the road indeed goes on forever. Such was the case last week as I drove 1200 miles with middle son, Jordan, for the beginning of his senior year at university.

Three years ago, I made a similar drive, with a boy who didn't mind when I suggested we stop at the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest National Park. One grateful to escape his new environment for a visit to the Grand Canyon. One I had to make go back to his dorm to spend his first night rather than staying in the hotel with me, even though it broke my heart.

On that road trip, ambivalent and nervous about beginning a new life in a place far from home, he wanted the road to go on forever.

This time, the man I rode with had no desire to look out the window and see the sights on the alternate route I chose. When I pulled my guidebook out of the door pocket, I pretended not to notice the grimace on his face. Nor did I comment on the relief that echoed throughout the car when I put the book back in its pocket.

How children change. How children become independent. I know that is the job of every parent to monitor and instill those goals. Makes me proud to see it happen, even though there is a twinge in my heart I have to let rest. It's Jordan's road now. As it should be.

The night before our departure, I prepared the favorite spaghetti dinner. The little brother and Jay, Jordan's friend since pre-school all shared a cheer for a successful school year.
At 7am the next morning, we meandered through Texas Hill Country roads before joining the freeway.

My eyes wandered to take in the ever changing terrain.

or to notice the miles of windmills high on the hills.

A few hundred miles in, conversations about adventure and life took the place of our high speed picture taking. The camera rested on the floor as we dodged thrown retread tires in El Paso and I marveled at UTEP, the Rio Grande, New Mexico State University and Texas Canyon just inside Arizona. Jordan feigned interest, even though I knew him well enough to know he noticed it all.

Alas, the day grew very long.

Check in at our hotel in Tucson granted us two free drinks at the bar. Bingo!

On the road by 8:00am, four more hours of driving landed us in front of Jord's dorm. Yes, smile for the camera, Son. You have to do these things for your mother.

And who wants to hang with Mom when you have friends to reunite with? Young men for whom your mom holds a tad of jealousy for they get to know how your days go, like I used to. Look at the smile on my son's face. You think he is glad to be there?

The car and storage unit unloaded, I leave him with his roommates to set up their abode for the new year. I venture to the local Target to restock his belongings with new sheets, cleaning supplies (that will probably stay in the bag), a new razor, and fresh socks.

The next day, after a trip to the observatory, we stop at an overlook, his school in the background.

My hotel. I'm so glad I can easily amuse myself. (That sign lights up redder than red at night.)

This is only one of 124 trains that blast by the hotel night and day, all blowing their horn for God and everybody to get the hell out of the way.

At the airport on Sunday, my son wore his new socks. I hugged him and told him to always be proud of himself. He has his list from mom on all the things to accomplish this year -- take on every adventure possible, change his sheets regularly, and make sure he graduates in the spring. Date all kinds of girls. That he'll never have this plethora of young women in one place ever again.

I will miss him, but am, oh, so glad to have shared a few days alone with him.

Have a great year, Jordan. Enjoy the road.

Please visit my mom at her new blog site Old? Who? Me?


  1. It's difficult to open your hands and let them fly isn't it. To me it was as heart stopping as when they first went to school, but oh how proud of them you are when you stand on the sidelines and watch them living their adult life.


  2. You are one wise and loving mom. Hope the year goes great!

  3. Oh the pain of letting go...of learning how to do it with smile. Watching them learn how to fly on their own...making their own ways on their own roads can be difficult but how proud us mothers are to see their wings so strong. I'm glad that you had this time alone with your boy before your own road took this turn. It's a whole new road and adventure for us too. I hope your adventure is a wonderful one!

  4. Sounds just about perfect. And that road is going to wind back through your living room before you know it.

  5. I'm sure those razors costs as much as the sheets, cleaning supplies and socks added together! He did look happy to be with his roommates, but he also wanted to go on the trip there with his mom. I will need to start practicing now how to control my emotions when my turn for this arrives.

  6. I never got to have that drive to school as Melody's college was only three hours away and she had her own car. But it seemed to me at times that she might as well be three days away! What I do remember is how she still 'humored' me at that point in her life, as if I were totally alien to her, and there were lots of eye rolls, but she tolerated my idiosycrasies because she loved me. Now, as a mother herself, she is tolerant of me because she sees where I was coming from!

    We did, however, take several trips together by ourselves, and even the long stretches of silence were companionable and comforting. What's cool is that years from now you will be going thru these photos, and each will be saying 'remember when this and that ...', with just the two of you having clear memories of it all to share. He'll even share those memories with his son or daughter when he sees them off to school, be it kindergarten or college.

    You're a good mommy, Julie. Your sons are very lucky. And whether it's kindergarten or high school graduation, first year of college or last, these are milestones and memorable moments for everyone.

  7. Good luck with the jobhunt. I'm a self employed mortgage broker in a dried up mortgage industry having to re-map my career too. Good Luck Julie.

  8. I can relate to this post in so many ways. It is so bitter-sweet, isn't it? You raise them to be independent, but it hurts to be left behind. The one thing that I've noticed is that they reintegrate you back into their lives at some point. My 26-year old, with a baby, calls often. The youngest, 22, freshly graduated from college, not so much. She is now a newly minted free person. Free from college, free from parental support (mostly), and enjoying the freedom of not having to check in. Although on occasion, she forgets, and calls to tell me she is leaving town to go somewhere. That's when I know the tie is loosened, not broken.

  9. I too felt the tug on my heart strings this year as I let my oldest son go off to college seems we are meant for this moment but the pangs still show up. Kudos for being there for your son and making it a special time and in the end, letting him make his way on his journey. Moms everywhere must be loved dearly by God; who else understands what we experience when we let go of our children? Peace.

  10. I so love this post. I went through this with my daughter. Mama you gave some good advice.

  11. Bet you're still his guidepost though. -smile-

  12. So poignant. You capture the bittersweet joy of a young man on the threshold...

    I hope we can afford to send our son to college in the Mainland. As much as I will miss him, I think he would thrive with the experience it would bring.

  13. It's such a bittersweet time. I know it well. Your independent son is the right sign that you did your job well. Even if it evokes a tear or two. Maybe especially then. :)

  14. Awesome photojournal. I feel your pain - my daughter just moved into the dorms at San Diego State.
    Isn't Flagstaff gorgeous???

  15. You make me cry! I dropped my son off today for his last year of college. They grow up fast, don't blink!

  16. The part about it being Jordan's road now cracked me open. Oh, the joys of poignant moments, ja? So heartbreaking and so grateful they happen at the same time?

    You are such the mom.

  17. This made me cry. What an amazing mom you are. What will you do next?

  18. My girls are still tiny, I do not know how I will face this. You were a thoughtful trooper, I will cling to thier pant legs weeping...

  19. My heart goes out to you. My oldest daughter started her senior year of high school today and I know that in one short year, I will be doing this very thing. I've got one more year of "active parenting" this child. I know I have a lot of "lasts" coming up this year. It's a little sad to think about. All the "firsts" after that will be hers alone. As you said, her road will go on, but the party will end for me. {{hugs}}

  20. And it's definitely his road to travel - and to enjoy.

  21. What other relationship do we intend to train to leave us? We always know our children will fly one day, but it is a roller coaster for our hearts!

    I loved the drives with my kids to school. Hours in the car to chat :). Texas? Yes, the miles look endless!

  22. Hello.
    I enjoyed reading your post and looking at your beautiful pictures - segments of our country.
    My three young children, 13, 11,and 9, go off to school on Tuesday. This is the first year at middle school for the 11 year old and she is thrilled!
    I found you when I Googled "mid-life moms" because I'm one too. I'm 51. Yes, if you do the math, my last one was born when I was 42.
    I plan you visit your blog again, and your mom's too.


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