Life gets in the way

If you have to pick a bill to be delinquent on, this would probably be the worst one. Somehow we fell three months behind in our $30 monthly sponsorship of a girl in Haiti. My excuse: We got mailed a new credit card after the Target security breach and I never provided the nonprofit organization with our new number. They sent polite notices and I still managed to forget to pick up the phone and call.

Then one day I did. I apologized quickly and profusely to the kind man who answered the telephone. I explained how I had meant to call. I was really sorry. He interrupted me politely with the following words: “It’s called life.” And I immediately felt such relief. I even wrote the sentence down on a sticky note and taped it to my bulletin board. Yes, “It’s called life.” Thank you for understanding. Sometimes, despite our best intentions, we don’t do what we want to do, or should do. And then we can be pretty tough on ourselves.

This is my long-winded way to explain the absence of any blog post since Mother’s Day. Our oldest daughter graduated from high school in June and I think our family has been preoccupied with all the events and emotions this rite of passage brings. Work has been busy, and the weather has been too nice to sit at a computer on weekends. These are all excuses, of course. My mother told me not to worry about it. She understood we had a lot on our plates. You’ll get back to it when you are ready, she assured me, as she always has.

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Sarah and my mother after her recent high school graduation.

On Sunday, like my mother did back in 1985, we brought our daughter to the University of New Hampshire to begin freshman year. My mother recently told me she felt nervous and a little horrified as we pulled up to the eight-story Stoke Hall dormitory for my drop off. She remembers seeing people throwing empty beer cans from top-floor windows. I honestly don’t remember that, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen from time to time. (I did once see  a mattress pushed out of a top floor window.)

My room assignment was what they called a built-up triple, meaning three people squeezed into a room for two. Back then we didn’t have Instagram and Facebook to scope out our roommates ahead of time. We didn’t text to coordinate comforter colors. It wasn’t until move-in day that I first learned one of my roommates really, really liked Jimmy Page of  Led Zeppelin, after she hung up a huge poster of him shirtless. She learned that I liked Michael Jackson. I also hung a poster. Mine was of a dancing Snoopy and Woodstock with the line, “Braces are cool.” I thought I was cool. Cringe-worthy, I know. She probably wanted to speak to the RA about a room re-assignment that day.

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Me, far left, with a bad haircut, in a dorm room near the end of my freshman year. (Sorry Amy, if you see this, your head was cut off in original photo). 

I don’t remember a tearful goodbye when my mother left. She remembers crying all the way home. “You were only 17,” she told me this morning. “I didn’t want to leave you.”

UNH move-in day went smoothly for our family. As my husband, Paul, said, “I don’t think it could have gone better.” Elizabeth climbed up on the top bunk to help Sarah make her new bed and hang pictures. Her roommate and her parents could not have been any nicer. A polite sophomore engineering major helped us carry up a few boxes, and told us there are always games on the TV in the first-floor lounge. It’s a big basketball dorm, he said. Sarah loves watching basketball. All good.

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The Leighton family on move-in day. 

Like Alice, I cried on the way home. To be honest, I am still sad and feeling a little unsettled. We all miss her a lot. The house feels a little empty without her dirty dishes in the sink (or on the counter and coffee table). In one of her many pep talks, our daughter Elizabeth reminded me that UNH is only an hour away. We will see her before long. It is all true.

I must say I am happy about the opportunity for her to meet new people and embrace new ideas. My mother recalled how all four of her children came home from college with new thoughts about the world, some of which surprised her. In many ways, that’s the point of the whole experience. It’s exciting to think what lies ahead. 

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One of the new wildcats in the UNH Class of 2020.



4 thoughts on “Life gets in the way”

  1. Just happened to be on-line when you posted….my friends who have college age children are all back at school now. Summer went by fast. Your post reminded me when my parents dropped me off at URI. My dad told me later that my mom cried all the way home. Having my younger sister at home helped her. When my sister went to college (UNH) my mom decided to go to college as well (night school while working full-time). They graduated the same year. One of my favorite pictures I have saved is one of my mom in her cap and gown.
    Wishing Sarah a wonderful year!

    1. Thanks Jamie. We will have to plan a road trip to visit her. Amazing story about your mother. Maybe I will follow in her footsteps when Elizabeth goes to college. Or maybe I will buy a Tiny House and live in the woods somewhere.

  2. This is one of my favorites. Made me smile – and wish you and I had been roommates even though you entered two years after I graduated. I had this big goofy frog poster that would have looked wonderful next to your Snoopy and Woodstock piece of art. Miss you – hugs to all of you as you navigate this first year, and big wishes of good school-year luck to Sarah and Elizabeth! — DeeDee

    1. Thanks DeeDee! I would have loved you as a roommate! I watched you navigate these college transitions with humor and grace and common sense. I hope to do the same.

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