A good friend hauled his daughter off to college in Milwaukee last week.

I don’t know that it encouraged him that all I know about Milwaukee is some brand of beer made it famous. At least, that’s the sales pitch we used to hear on TV.

Nonetheless, Mom and Dad are now home in an empty nest and their flaxen-haired daughter is flapping her newfound wings in a distant state.

I don’t expect my longtime friend to say much about it. If he does, it will be something like, “It’s a long way,” and we’ll be left to fill in the blanks.

I know from experience, though, that it’s no easy thing hauling a kid off to college, no matter how ready you may be for her to fly.

I still have a vivid image of Melissa in my rear view mirror as I pulled out of the dormitory parking lot at Culver-Stockton College in the fall of 1995. Turning the corner and hitting the road out of Canton, I had a lump in my throat the size of a football. Never mind that she was nearly 19 and generally acted more mature than I did, she was still the little girl I regularly hoisted up on my shoulders for family walks around town.

It was a lot the same with Angela; but, she only went as far as Warrensburg, and was rooming with her best friend from high school. I wasn’t by myself, either, when we pulled out of the parking lot.

It hit me later, as I sat on the sofa in a silent living room, staring across the hall into the empty darkness of her bedroom. The later it got, the more I expected to hear her car pull in the driveway, all the time knowing that it wouldn’t.

It’s tough sending kids off to college, almost as tough as having teenagers at home. On one hand, we don’t want to let go. On the other, we wonder if we can all live another day under the same roof.

The kids, for the most part, can’t wait to go. The best part of about getting out of high school is getting out of town.

It doesn’t take, long, though, before most of them start to think that maybe things really weren’t so bad back home. They start to miss things like hugs from Mom, a well-stocked refrigerator and laundry already washed, dried and folded.

Some of them even miss ol’ Dad. 

No matter how self-assured and bold, if time could turn on a dime, they’d be kids again, snuggled under Winnie the Pooh blankets back home.

I read somewhere that one of the things college kids want most is more visits or calls from home.

Reflections in the rear view mirror assure me that it’s true.

Jim Hamilton is a freelance writer in Buffalo. Contact him at jhamilton000@centurytel.net. A version of this column previously published in the Buffalo Reflex. ©️ James E. Hamilton 2019. 

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