Thursday, August 07, 2008


In dance class, at the age of seven, we were taught how to keep time by stepping in place to the music. Sometimes we'd clap, too, while standing in place, and later, as we got older, we were taught about complicated things like syncopated rhythms. This simple action of keeping time while standing in place is what it feels like in these few days before N's imminent departure to Bard. The house is full of cardboard boxes, discarded sweatshirts, some hardly worn ("You gave that to me for my 11th birthday, Mamma; I never liked it"), suitcases, piles of jeans, and one confused and humour-challenged teenager. J and I stand in place, like soldiers outside Buckingham Palace, waiting for the hurricane to pass. It's not bittersweet. It's not full of heartwarming moments where we all sit down together and discuss funny things that happened in the past. The protagonist is a furious boy/man who is sick of being in his parents house and dying to get out in the world yet at the same time terrified of leaving his friends and the life he knows. "Oh, the good thing about college," a well-meaning friend said to him yesterday "is that everyone is in the same boat - on that first day no-one knows anyone." "Yeah," he says, slumped in his chair. Yesterday he was so hideous and vile that I considered not going. "I won't go" I thought smugly. "I'll just let him deal with it all himself." His father did it on his own, after all, and he had to go all the way to Maine. And he was fine; no emotional scars, no simmering repressed anger... So, when he leaves the house and I have to sit with myself, alone, keeping time while standing in place, flipping through the pages of the school website, and I notice the Parents Q&A scheduled for Saturday morning, the luncheon, the reception, the address by the college president. I google furiously trying to find evidence that I won't be needed. I need to back up my clever plan afterall. "There is a lot of paperwork to be filled in" writes one parent. "Just let your student lead the way. They need you there but they won't admit it" writes another. Finally, tears running down my face, I call Jumby. "He......can't......go.....on....his.....own" I choke (I might as well have said "A little...boy...needs....his.....Mummy" for all the sense I was making.) And then it all washes over me. This is my first child and he is leaving home. And nothing is ever going to be the same again.


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