Wasn’t he just leaving for his first day of school, all sweet and tidy in his new uniform, backpack on and lunch box firmly in hand? Honestly, it seems like just yesterday his teenage self was longboarding down the Strand, heading to town for milkshakes and Magic with his buds. And didn’t I just vacuum his bedroom after he left for that first year away at college, the one that inspired my introductory bout of Empty Nest Syndrome? Yes… and yet here we are, closing the campus house and discussing just how nice the weather was on graduation day at Humboldt State University. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!
Like everything else in life happens: in the blink of those flashing, fleeting, sometimes unnoticeable moments in which our existence unfolds in all its transformational glory. LIFE. SPACE. TIME. Those upper case continuums that are so common as to be every-day, yet so profound they elude even the wisest of minds… and certainly rattle my own if I think too hard on the topic! Time… I just want to grab it sometimes and holler, “Wait! Slow down! Can’t I have that one a moment longer??”
I can look at pictures of my son at two or three and remember each tactile sensation of his soft little being at that era of his life: his sweet smell, the weight of his body, the stickiness of his fingers, the cherubic face looking at me with wide blue eyes and a smile that made me feel like the most important person in the world. I can hear the sound of his voice saying, “Hi, mama,” as I walked through a room, the urgency of his hugs when he felt nervous or unsettled; the warmth and gush of his love when we’d go through our “good night” ritual with its songs and stories. Even the moment pictured above – him, thrilled to be off to Valley View Elementary – brings back such poignant, tangible memories that the moment may as well be standing right next to me, so sensorial, immediate, and remembered.
And yet, standing right next to me, next to his proud father, with his mortar board and green sash (signifying his pledge to “explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider”… gotta love Humboldt State!), is the version of this person that exists today: a tall, slender man with darker hair, stronger arms, but still a smile that touches me like no other. Our grown son. Who graduated from college this weekend with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Environmental Resources Engineering; accomplished, brilliant, and ready for the next chapter.
He says it feels a bit premature, and it is somewhat of a preemptive chapter change in that he’ll be returning for one concluding semester after the summer. His major is a specialized science degree that typically requires five years to complete, given both the demands of the degree and the availability of open seats in a small university. He, however, was able to manage it in four-and-a-half… hence, the one more semester after this one. But his class is the class of 2014 and so he appropriately walked with his classmates: cap, gown, diploma, and proud parents, all. Once he wraps in December, our boy will be an official “adult,” one with a college degree, the need for a job, and a life unencumbered by school schedules and campus housing demands. Hooray and… yikes?
He’ll once again be in that bedroom I vacuumed so many years ago, landing there until he finds solid, employed ground under his newly-adult feet. Back in the nest, the home, the family circle; and we’ll be so happy to have him for as long as it takes to launch. I don’t expect it to be long; he’s clear-headed, intelligent; likable, ambitious and focused, and will, no doubt, land something of merit quickly enough that my next chapter will be, “Empty Nest Pt. 6: OK, Now He’s Really Leaving Home.” And that will feel similarly life-changing and gut-wrenching and still so full of pride and admiration that I’ll cry with that weird mix of sorrow and elation; you know the one.
Until that chapter, we’ll relish the time together and celebrate this big, proud, tremendous accomplishment. Congratulations, sweetheart, on a successful college career. Let’s enjoy the summer; you’ll get back and wrap it up, then we’ll be off to what’s next. Isn’t life an adventure?
All photographs by LDW
To read the entire series, click links below:
• Empty Nest Pt 1: My Very Cool Roommate Is Moving Out…
• Empty Nest Pt 2: Empty ‘Next’ Syndrome…Coming Home
• Empty Nest Pt. 3: See You In November!
•Empty Nest Pt. 4: He’s Leaving Home AGAIN… Bye Bye
• Empty Nest Pt. 5: It’s a Wrap… Well, Almost
• Empty Nest Pt. 6, the Final Chapter: With Keys In Hand, He Flies…
Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.