October 09, 2018
Posted By: Jessica Geary-Cecotti
We drove. And drove and drove and drove. Almost 1,000 miles. Down through Idaho and into Nevada, through Jackpot and Elko and spent the night in Winnemucca. With Bozeman in our rearview mirror, my daughter and I fell into easy, unrushed conversations that delved into the deep and painful (my divorce, her eating disorders, regrettable words spoken in anger) and then flitted back up into the light and ridiculous (how might one handle having an ugly roommate; the genealogy of Hailey Baldwin, the appeal of Drake). It had been a tense few weeks leading up to our departure with me trying to give her space while also holding unwittingly too tight, and her asserting her independence and intense urge to cut the cord.
But on this day, the first in our road trip to Palo Alto to drop her off for freshman year at college, we talked about the past, the future, our family – along with her hopes and aspirations, fears and anxieties. I asked questions and she answered thoughtfully. We stopped at Starbucks and sang every last word of Hamilton. The next day, with California in our sights, we rallied toward the coast, peed in the Sierra Nevada forest and finally arrived at our beachside hotel by driving the wrong way into the one-way entrance. We laughed till our sides hurt; watched the sunset from the hot tub and splurged on Bouillabaisse; we touched Bat Rays in the Monterey Aquarium touch tank till our fingers pruned and then listened to the Big Little Lies soundtrack as we followed the famous cypress-lined 17-mile-drive.
During our last night together, I tried to think of the things I still had to tell her – that I hadn’t yet said – and then attempted some words of advice about being kind to herself and keeping her own happiness in mind always. Then I awkwardly apologized for the mistakes I’d made, the times I’d lost my temper and not been the mom I wanted to be. She listened and told me that all of these things – for better or worse – had made her the person she is.
On our way to school the following day, we stopped at Target for a few last-minute things. I suddenly found myself desperately searching for things she might need and didn’t have – door stopper! first aid kit! – and shoving them into the cart like a crazy lady on a time-sensitive mission, making sure that I had truly done everything in my power to release her from the nest as prepared as she could possibly be. There were also some weird crying jags (on my part) and some merciful and pitying looks (on hers).
Once we made it to campus, I barely saw her again. As I unpacked boxes, made the bed and commiserated with the parents of her suitemates, she floated from function to function – happy, ready, in her element and exactly where she wanted to be. When she flitted back into her room occasionally over the course of the afternoon, I found myself staring and snapping pictures of her as if she were a fleeting mirage. And then, just like that and all at once, it was time for her to go to dinner with her RAs and roommates and for us to say goodbye.
I won’t lie: I was a mess, clutching and blubbering. She smiled and hugged me as did her roommates, charitably. I blathered some nonsense to them about supporting each other and communicating . . . blah blah blah. And they all nodded dutifully, eager to move along. We both knew she wouldn’t cry, and she didn’t. She walked with her friends toward the dining hall and never looked back.
Then, later, around midnight, she sent the following text: “You doing OK? I’m safe, I’m happy and I love you.” Flooded with relief, pride and contentment. I thanked her for concern, assured her that I was fine, then rolled over and slept peacefully for the first time in weeks.
Like most working single moms, Eleonore Snow runs full speed at all times and sometimes goes to the store to buy milk for her kids and comes home with only wine for herself. You can judge her, it's OK.