Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

And Now We’re Empty

One week ago today we left home to take the Magpie to her penultimate semester at college (no telling if next year we’ll be taking her to grad school, but I seriously doubt it). This was an easy trip, as her campus is a little over an hour away, and easy also because by this time, she knows what to bring, what NOT to bring, and how to pack it. We moved in, helped her get partly set up, went out for lunch and to pick up a few more items, and that was it. The tough part was the fact that we just got her back after her year abroad, but at least we got to spend a couple weeks with her before she left again.

Thursday was the Catbird’s turn. The Catbird is going to college about 4-1/2, 5 hours away, in a whole other state! We had to board the dog for the night (never a fun thing) and leave at 7 a.m. to get to campus at the appointed move-in time of between noon and 3 (the Catbird’s college decided to stagger the arrival time, presumably to ease congestion around the dorms. I’m not sure I would follow that rule again, knowing what I now know, which is nothing bad. Just that, with orientation activities for students beginning somewhere in late afternoon, the kids arriving in the morning had more time to put things to rights and maybe relax a little.).

The Catbird’s school had 2 days of “activities” aimed at parents, so we stayed overnight, which we might have anyway, because who wants to do 10 hours of driving in a single day? In hindsight, the 2-day “orientation” for parents really wasn’t all that necessary. We ended up missing the one session that might have actually been useful because we were dealing with a problem with our motel, which amounted to this:

Apparently, every school in town decided to have move-in day at approximately the same time, and the motel ran out of rooms. I’m promised a reimbursement check for the room they ultimately found me in another hotel elsewhere, and I’m hoping I don’t end up having to go through a big runaround on this. We’ll see.

At any rate, despite some concerns over what and how the Catbird was packing, things went smoothly there as well. As we waited at a traffic light to turn into the campus, we were greeted by a small cadre of students on the sidewalk, jumping up and down, cheering the incoming students and calling out things like, “Welcome home.” The freshman class is ~500 students; there were at least 100 upperclassmen on hand to help move in (they were on our car like ants on a cracker), to lead new students to and in orientation activities, and to help everyone feel welcome. It was a great way to start.

For my own part, the emotions I expected to cause problems were pretty under control. This is one of the benefits to being busy, I suppose: it’s hard to dwell on the changes in life that are coming if you’re running around doing a bunch of things. The kids were kept busy, too, with meetings and trips and group activities. Last night we had our first 3-way Skype session, which was an oddity to say the least, but both my girls look happy, and that’s the best I can hope for.

8 Responses

  1. I dropped my son off at an out-of-state college about two weeks ago. Pretty quiet around here now. Won't see him again until Christmas, but he seems happy and I'm awfully proud of him. And, hey, he's even called me already. :))

  2. It's such a tough time for parents!! I'm glad things are going well for the girls.
    We had a reservation issue last summer and it's mind boggling to hear – yes we have your reservation, but we don't have a room for you, even though you're from out of country and booked it 2 months ago. GRRRRR!

  3. Who wants to do 10 hours of driving in a single day? Ummm… I've done that and more. Multiple times. But that's starting early in the morning and arriving well before bedtime. Am I sick? Probably. 😀

    Glad your girls got off to a nice start. My kids went to the local college, so I didn't experience an empty nest quite as abrupt. Well, except when my daughter decided to drop out of college and go to Australia for 9 months. There was no Skype. She had no cellphone. It was just e-mail, and she didn't have access to a computer all that often (I couldn't even snail mail her as she moved around). I sometimes think those were the worst 9 months of my life. At least she came back a different and BETTER person. I guess some kids just need to get away to grow up. 🙂

  4. -L.G.–It's not even the quiet, it's knowing that the kid isn't going to come walking down the stairs at any minute in search of a snack! Christmas, huh? Won't even get to come home for Thanksgiving? That's a long time away!
    -Jemi–I hope the hotel in your case made things good. And in fairness to the place I was supposed to stay at, they called me and asked if they could move me. I could have said 'No'. I'm glad they found us a place nearby and didn't (try to) send us 100 miles out of town!
    -Stacy–We've had our share of those drives; doable, but not preferred. I'm guessing if we don't make her take the bus for Thanksgiving we'll just do the one shot. Coming back different and especially better is what it's all about! I've seen quite a difference in the Magpie since she started college, we'll see what it does for the Catbird.

  5. That sounds like a wonderful campus. I love that everyone was so friendly and welcoming. That bodes really well for your daughter's experience there.

  6. The 2 days at the distant college sure sound like a pain in the butt, but I bet your daughter really appreciated that you wanted to be there and support her. Lucky the other one's closer, right? And yay for Skype, helping you all to stay connected! Have a great weekend and don't be sad — I'm sure you're girls would feel bad if they thought you were.

  7. -Donna–so far, so good. I hopefully will never have nothing but good things to say about the place!
    -Lexa–I'm not sure how much she appreciated it, hah ha. There was some butting of heads that would have been avoided had it been a drop-and-go!
    -Nick–I am, indeed!

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