Graduation means get out

25 May

Yesterday, we talked about gratuitous graduations.  Am I a killjoy?  Is it weird that I didn’t shed a tear the first time I dropped anyone off at mother’s morning out?  Is it wrong that I peeled out of the parking lot, with my stereo cranked to full volume?  Is it okay to admit that this past weekend I was looking at all of the great travel options for September through December and thinking how kick-ass it’s going to be when the kids are in college and we can take off on spontaneous, reduced cost trips?

Can you find me?

I graduated high school in 1988.  My graduation gift from my parents was a set of American Tourister luggage.  Two rolling suitcases, a garment bag, week-ender and the train case were all there.  At the time I thought it was a pretty crappy set up, but now I understand the symbolism. I did also get a giant backpack, Eurail Pass and an open-ended plane ticket for the summer.  I think that there was a not so subtle message there:  GET OUT!  They couldn’t wait for college to start in the fall.  My parents were ready to be empty nesters a.s.a.p.

On the morning that I left for college I was in a hurry to get on the road.  It may be the fist time that I actually finished packing and loaded my car the night before a departure.  Just as I was heading to the garage door, my mother said that she needed to have a word with me.  In private.  Ugh.  What was she going to tell me?  I had gotten the sex talk at age seven when a load of porn magazines fell out of ceiling tile in one of the brother’s basement bedroom.  Surely, we weren’t going to have a refresher.  Was she going to talk to me about drugs?  Oh, God.  How awkward to have your parent say words like “doobie” and “acid tab” to you.  Maybe she was going to tell me to make good decisions and wax on about how I would make friends that would last a lifetime in college.  Sigh.  Or worse, she was going to cry and say how she wished my father (who died when I was 2 ½) was there to see this…blah, blah, blah.

Dorm sweet dorm

Wearing a floral housecoat and a towel twisted into a turban on her head, my mother sat on the edge of her bed with a huge crystal ashtray balanced on her knee.  I sat next to her and she stretched out her intro by lighting one of her skinny foot long ciggies and taking a long drag, which she exhaled through her nose.  And then it went like this, “I am so proud that you are going to college today.  You are moving our of your bedroom and going to live in a dorm, and one day you’ll have an apartment…”  Okay, so far, so good.  Where is this going?  Then this rushed out of her mouth: “You will always be welcome to come home for holidays, summer break while you are in school and some weekends.  BUT you are never moving back into this house.”  Huh?  I was seventeen and getting kicked to the curb.  I so did not see this coming.  She went on to talk about how weird it is for kids over age eighteen to still live at home and if it happens they never leave and everyone’s lives are ruined.  I put the top down on my car and drove to college in a complete daze.

When I graduated from college, it was a sparse affair.  I didn’t even want to walk, but was forced into it.  The only people from my family that came were my mother and her identical twin sister, Charlotte.  Because they were essentially the same person with two names, it was like just having one person there.  I don’t know who made our commencement address.  The air conditioning was out in the auditorium.  It was more boring and pointless than a neighborhood zoning committee meeting.  As I was saying my good-byes in the parking lot, I coyly asked about my graduation present.  My mom said I wasn’t getting anything until she saw the actual paper.  What I had been given when I crossed the stage was a diploma I.O.U.  Basically, the check was in the mail.  That damn thing didn’t come for months and mama was taking no chances.

Not my t-shirt

My gift ended up being an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime extended trip to Thailand, China, Singapore and Indonesia with my parents.  This happened a year and a half after I graduated.  The thirty-one hour plane ride with them affirmed that finishing college, diploma and all, was the right call.  Not only would I would never have to live in their basement, I’d never want to.

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One Response to “Graduation means get out”

  1. Laurel May 25, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

    I so wish I had met your mother.

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