We squeezed into the front seats, the only open spaces left in my overstuffed car, and I pulled away from the curb in front of the building Frances had called home for the last nine months. I glanced over as tears spilled down her cheeks, and her mouth crumpled into sad.
My thoughts turned to the memory of the afternoon last August, when we eased down our driveway, the car filled with brand new bedding, carefully packed bags, shiny bins and pristine baskets. She was sobbing then too, as we turned onto the dusty dirt road and headed toward her new adventure. That day she wasn’t sure she was ready to leave us- and home.
And now she was fairly positive she wasn’t ready to say goodbye to her first year in college, her roommate and friends. She’d stretched out the farewells, lingered over her final room check-out with her R.A., and embraced each of her pals at least three times before we finally stepped out of the well worn dorm she’d come to love this year.
I slowed at the intersection and then carefully turned the corner, catching a last glimpse of the old brick buildings shaded by trees that were older still. I adjusted my side view mirror and the one on the other side. The second seat and rear windows were blocked. This time the car was stuffed with mountains of dirty laundry, and baskets, bins and blankets that had seen better days.
The tears kept rolling down her cheek as I reached into the console to search for tissues.
“Frances,” I said, “do you remember what it was like when we drove away from home nine moths ago?”
She nodded, chin quivering.
I remembered it too.
“You were crying. I felt terrible for you.”
That day I’d had a knot in my stomach, and a lump in my throat- wondering if we’d all miss each other too much, hoping that she would love her new school, her roommate, her room. Wondering what her new friends would be like. What classes she’d take.
“How lucky you are to have loved this year so much, that it is equally hard to leave here now,” I added softly.
She nodded again.
For the next few minutes we were quiet. Frances sat with her thoughts. I drove with my gratitude. And just like that, her first year of college was over.
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