Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A new chapter: Middlebury College

Two views of my son's dorm at Middlebury College.
As my son joined the queue of freshman, my advice was:
"Don't run over the photographer."

My son turned to me and grinned. "Don't be so sentimental."

I laughed with him, fighting back tears. It was a long journey, and I don't mean the five hour drive from Maine to Vermont.

Middlebury Town in Vermont
My son worked so hard to get to Middlebury College, and he got lucky too. Middlebury was the first college we visited together junior year. He fell in love with a hilly campus encircled by mountains, the absurd amounts of snow and a cafeteria open all day long: paradise!

President Liebowitz had advice for us parents: "Your job is done. They're adults. Don't worry; we'll look after them." He celebrated Middlebury's achievements and shared a story about a sobbing parent. He told us "to suck it up." We laughed because it beat crying. It was time to let go.

I said goodbye to my son by cell phone. He was rushing off to take a placement exam. I had never felt so alone, not since my mid 20s. My husband was in Maine, meeting with his freshman advisees at Bowdoin College. Our 16-year-old daughter had already left for a semester school on a coastal farm. For one semester, we will be empty nesters. It's not all bad; I can write and paint without interruption. For years I've been looking forward to this gift of free time. But still.

Look, Beth, Small Damages.
In my new found solitude, I headed off campus, crossing the bridge to the charming town. I took refuge in The Vermont Book Shop, overlooking the river. Driving home, I listened to Beautiful Ruins on CD.

Now I'm back at work, writing a new young adult novel and painting a couple of commissions. Classes have started at Bowdoin too. For the first time, my husband's students are the same age as our child. The dog roams the house, sniffing around suspiciously tidy rooms. Our son calls weekly and our daughter emails. They sound happy. We're all adjusting to this new pace of life.

Blog Watch: Happy 5th Blog Anniversary to Cynthia Newbury Martin! Welcome back Donna and A Cuban in London from summer break! Elizabeth Wix has shut down About New York but is still posting at The World Examining Works


Unknown said...

With you, Sarah! But still, indeed.

Cid said...

Must be a very strange feeling, one that I can't quite imagine. My eldest left for Switzlerland a week ago and we have had a grand total of two, two sentence emails. Time flies so be sure to enjoy it all.

Unknown said...

I thought dropping our sophmore Midd Kid off last week would be easier than last year - nope. After having him home for the summer, it's hard all over again. Guess we did something right if we miss him so much. I'm already counting the weeks until Parents Weekend.

Sarah Laurence said...

Jackie, it is hard saying goodbye twice. Love to your kids, and a hug to the little guy who must be missing them too.

Cid, we have set up a weekly phone chat with my son, anticipating this problem. His younger sister emails regularly. What a wonderful experience for you eldest son! I’m sure he’ll enjoy the mountains.

Tonya, welcome to my blog! It’s so good to have a Middlebury Parents group. So it doesn’t get easier the next year. Yes, we’re looking forward to parents weekend too.

A Cuban In London said...

Oh, damn, that'll be me in a few years. They go quickly, don't they? Those years of bringing them up, holding them whilst they take their first steps, feeding them, changing their nappies and then, one day... Year 7 in secondary school, GCSEs (in the UK) and before you know it, they're checking out a campus that is surrounded by hills. What a beautiful post you've written. Really from the heart. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Stacy said...

What a beautiful place to go to school and what a cozy bookstore to spend a few hours in.

Good luck with your new projects.

Your kids will miss you too. :)

Liviania said...

How wonderful! Finding the perfect college is a treat. I hope your son enjoys his time!

Margie said...

Middlebury College is a great school and I wish your son all the best there.
And I wish you well too, Sarah.

When my son left for college it was one of the hardest things I ever did when I sad "goodbye"
He's finished with his studies and has a great job and loves close by now.

Take care, Sarah

Margie said...

always makes errors on early morning visits ...LOL

Oh, the photos are all beautiful.

khaki said...

I have never been to Vermont- it looks beautiful- cute little college town - or it appears so. Saying goodbye is always so hard but I love Skype!!! Makes it a lot easier- and emails. Gotta love the emails. Enjoy your time alone- it will be gone before you know it!!!!

cynthia newberry martin said...

I LOVE Middlebury--it was my first choice for years until I went to NC in the winter without the right clothes and thought I'd never make it in Vermont. And I never thought I'd have trouble telling my daughter goodbye at college but then I cried for 45 min until my husband stopped at a liquor store-ha! Good for you. LOVE the photo at the bottom and thanks for the shout-out for the blog. Five years--hard to believe. Enjoy your temporarily empty nest : )

Donna said...

Congratulations to your son on going to Middlebury! That's a great school. I hope you're adjusting well to the change. I'm not looking forward to when my kids head off to college and I'm glad it's still a long way off. At the same time, however, I'm eager for the time I'll have in my life when they're older. I'm glad you're making the most of it. That last picture looks like a dream!

☆sapphire said...

Congratulations to you and your son on his going to Middlebury! Every building in the town looks really beautiful.What a lovely town! Though his absence makes you feel a little bit sad, you have now enough time to write and paint! That's really great.

I'm reading "Ink" now. I'm going to post a little about it probably next time.

D said...

True, Sarah, we have to let them go. Years ago I recall a doctor friend saying, 'your reward as having been a good parent is when they leave'. And I must confess that when my sons visit and then go back to their home, I still cry. :)

Sarah Laurence said...

ACIL, don’t blink; you’ll be there soon. Thanks!

Stacy, thanks! I’ll be revisiting that bookstore for sure.

Liviania, Margie, Cynthia and Donna, Middlebury was a great match for him. I’ve had a very productive week painting and writing. And Margie I like the slip of lives to loves – fitting!

Kacky, my problem with Skype is the time lag in the audio, reminds me of old transatlantic phone lines. We are using email too but it’s nice to hear his voice and the excitement in it.

Sapphire, thanks! I can’t wait to read your reaction on INK.

Diana, welcome to my blog and thanks for sharing

Booksnyc said...

The campus looks beautiful - I can see why your son was drawn to it. Hang in there - I am sure it is hard to have both kids away from home.

Alyson | New England Living said...

So beautifully written! That campus looks amazing. Your son is a lucky, and I imagine hard-working, young man! Good luck to you in adjusting to your new life, which will probably be filled with unexpected blessings as well.

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

Oh yes, I remember this so well! When my daughter left for university I thought I was doing fine, busy job, busy life and so on. I was driving one day and suddenly was so overtaken by missing her and grief at her going that I had to pull over and weep. She has a small child of her own now. It goes so fast. Relish every moment, both with them and without.

troutbirder said...

I remember this all very well. A special moment indeed.

Rose said...

Oh, Sarah, I do understand! It was hard for us to adjust to being empty nesters at first, too, but just when we finally did, our youngest daughter moved back home:)

My oldest granddaughter left for college several weeks ago, and her mother is still having a hard time adjusting. My granddaughter is very introverted and was very homesick at first, which made it even worse. But last week when she called home, she was telling her mom about a boy in her classes who she'd been talking to and said he was "cool." I think the homesickness is subsiding:)

David Cranmer said...

What a lovely sounding college to go to and I agree on the cafeteria being open all day. A must!

Barrie said...

Oh, I know these feelings well. I can't imagine how I'l cope next year when child #3 leaves the nest. Perhaps with lots of writing! These kids of ours do grow up too quickly. I really enjoyed reading this blog post.

Sarah Laurence said...

Booksnyc and Alyson, I fell in love with the campus too. I’m looking forward to more visits.

Elizabeth, troutbirder and Rose, thanks for sharing your experiences. Yes, sadness comes in waves, but most of the time I’m happy for them and pleased to have more creative time for myself. I’m also counting the days to seeing the kids again.

David, you’re on the same page as my son.

Barrie, lucky you to have 4 children. Still, I’m sure it’s hard to see any of them go.

Middlebury Parent visitors, thanks so much for your understanding/encouraging comments on the Midd Parents Facebook page. It helps to see that I'm not alone.

walk2write said...

Oh, that's a lovely campus. I'm sure your son will thoroughly enjoy his college experience. Why is it that the mom always has the hardest time with the separation? It's almost like a second birth experience, postpartum-blues-ish. Dads usually don't understand it. Take care and be good to yourself, Sarah.

Sarah Laurence said...

W2W, I actually think my husband was more upset by the kids’ absence at first. Due to work, he wasn’t able to drop them off at school. I was able to see how happy they were in their new environments and took comfort in that. Henry has never seen Middlebury, but he will on parents’ weekend. He’s quite involved in their lives usually. Perhaps it is hormonal for dads as well as moms. Thanks, though, for your support and empathy. I’m feeling cheerer after a productive week and hearing from the kids. We visited my daughter last weekend and she’s coming home for a night next weekend. All is well.

Les said...

Even though my son has another three years to go before college, and despite what he occasionally puts us through, I am not looking forward to that stage of our lives.

Sarah Laurence said...

Les, it goes so fast so enjoy it while you can. Happily my daughter still has another year and a half at home and both are coming home for Thanksgiving. I'm enjoying the extra free time for my work but missing them too.

Carol said...

Congratulations Sarah! A bit late as I have been away and not blogging much since back really . . . my retreat is so busy just now. I was visiting my son and eight month old grandson then off to a painting workshop in Provincetown for most of September. Yours is the beginning of the journey . . . what a great beginning! Fantastic college. Charming campus. Enjoy your freedom.