The initiation process began in May 2014.
There were events left and right: Senior prom, spring musical, last Improv show, parties, graduation and more. I attended every single one – apparently prerequisites for gaining entry into this “Club.” Then the initiation phase was over and I moved into the quiet phase. Those in the Club know all about this: The summer after graduation when reality sets in. I barely saw him. I was away with his little brother; he was working at a summer camp. I was in bed by 10 pm; he got home long after I was sleeping. We were like ships passing in the night but I still knew where he was.
Next week, I become a member of the Club, like it or not. I didn’t ask to join but my membership is not an option. I never understood this Club before or even knew it existed. Until now. I know members who have already been admitted but never understood what made them so different from the rest of us. I never understood how they felt or why. Until now.
My welcoming party will consist of a bunch of strangers moving their kids into a college dorm. They are joining the club, too. All of us will likely be feeling the same way and albeit from different walks of life, we likely had similar initiations.
I will officially become inducted into the “Where Have the Last 18 years Gone” Club on August 31, when I give Ethan a hug
good-bye and drive home without him. I’ll be part of a Club I never knew was out there. Other members might feel the same way as I do: Sort of lost, like a ship without an anchor. But yet, haven’t I been the anchor? To make it more confusing, Ethan is my first to go to college so I still have Noah at home. So, I’m not an empty-nester – yet. What gives? Why am I feeling so sad, so lost at sea? It doesn’t make logical sense, but yet fellow members of the club understand.
Reminders of my new membership just won’t stop pouring in.
* I stopped writing this just now because Ethan walked in with a packet for me. It is from the Northeastern University Parents Association. An enclosed “Handbook for Parents and Families” welcomes me to the NEU Parents Association. It comes with a membership card valid August 2014-2019. I guess my Club membership comes with an adjunct membership too.
* On August 2, my boys and I went to see the movie “Boyhood.” Besides knowing that it was about a boy’s life filmed over a 12-year span, I knew nothing about the movie. Probably a good thing or I may not have gone to see it. Why? They might as well have filmed Ethan growing up, starting when he was six in 2002 and ending when he was 18 and on his first day of college – next week. Ethan is the same age as the actor in the movie and it was filmed over the course of the exact years of Ethan’s childhood. It was an extraordinary movie about an ordinary life. From both the boy and his mother’s point of view, the 12 years encompassed moves, divorces, marriages, new families, job changes, alcoholism, new schools, lack of money at times, plenty of money at times. Growing up. The years just sort of fly and as parents, we don’t often take a block of time to reflect upon all the changes that have occurred in the life of our child. Instead, it sort of sneaks up on you. Ethan and I walked out of the movie speechless. I am sure there were too many moments that rang true to him. There were certainly many for me. I think nothing hit me more than when the mother was sitting in her new apartment – after selling the house that was too big – and started crying.
* And then there is the flurry of photos all over my social media feed: Some of Ethan’s friends in their dorm rooms and others of MY high school friend’s kids in THEIR dorm rooms.
Maybe joining this Club was easier before social media existed. No matter. I look around this big house and I see memories: Ethan in grade school, running around the yard, his messy room, parties at the house, a couple of girlfriends, his friends since junior high and even kindergarten hanging around…. Come next week, I won’t know where he is, how late he’s up at night, who he’s hanging around with. I won’t be a part of his everyday life.
I know, I know. This is what is SUPPOSED to happen when we join the Club. It’s all part of growing up. I mean, I did it and I went way far away to college – 2,600 miles, not 26. So it should be much easier, logically speaking. But when you join the Club, all reason goes out the window. I am now a web of feelings, collective feelings that took 18 years to accumulate. I didn’t realize how much of my life was tied to Ethan’s life. Yeah, I’m his mom. That’s the way it usually goes. Even when I was working ridiculous hours for most of Ethan’s childhood, I was still there for him. Even when we didn’t see eye to eye during his high school years, I was still there for him, always. Last year, I made sure I was there for every event. I saw every choral performance and play at high school (well, except for the concert chorus in the spring which I totally forgot about! Sorry, Ethan). Come fall, I will have no reason to go to the school. It will leave a strange sort of void.
Besides this void, moving Ethan to college is leaving me with this eery sort of “what now” dilemma. My decisions were intricately tied to Ethan and his brother: what’s best for them, what will make them happy. Even big decisions like where we moved to, my work, and the type of house we lived in. And now the house and location seems less necessary (but not totally unnecessary as Noah is still in high school here). I’ve tried to express these feelings to my husband of four years. On some level, he gets it. But not really. He’s not officially a member of the Club. He just knows I’m in a funk. Sad at times. Excited at others. My life keeps spinning around me. That’s because I can’t just watch 18 years skip away without reflection.
In 9 days (but who’s counting), we will pack up the car with all the crap we bought at Bed Bath & Beyond and Target (I saw a couple members of the club in these stores getting ready for their inductions too). I’ll get him set up. And then I’ll leave. Come home. Re-arrange his room.
And then it’s back to business as I continue on my quest to get rid of all the stuff I’ve accumulated for the past 18 years. All you Club members are welcome to come to my emptying out yard sale sometime this fall. None of this stuff seems necessary or wanted anymore.
Not sure why I’m on this feverish kick but I’m thinking it’s in the Club handbook somewhere.