For all of you parents, songwriters or otherwise, who are feeling mixed emotions because your baby is going to college in the fall—hello! I’m right there with you.
This is my last day volunteering at the student canteen at my daughter’s high school—the last day I will cheerfully ask, “Hi there! What can I get for you?” Every bag of Goldfish I pass through the window feels so last to me. So symbolic. So weighty. Lasts can be so sad.
I feel like my daughter just came to this school. Of course I do. But now, it’s over.
I’m actually excited about the future. After all, I’m going to be able to reconnect with me. Who was I before I became a mother? What was I doing? Wearing? What did I have for breakfast? How late did I sleep? I swear I can’t recall.
The truth is, I’ve been in a rush since the day Layla was born. I’ve always wanted to be there: At a songwriting session. Home by 4PM. Mommy & Me. Another session. Pick-up at preschool. Polly Pockets. Play-Doh. Errands. Home for dinner. Goodnight Moon. Another session. I wanted to be everywhere. All the time. She was (is) my only.
I won’t be in a rush after my girl goes to college. I look forward to grabbing a coffee or a cocktail with a co-writer after we finish a song, instead of beelining to carpool or the supermarket for dinner provisions. The hell with dinner! I look forward to taking off with my hubby for a spontaneous long weekend in Joshua tree. Or Palm Springs. Or Ojai. Or just staying at home and doing nothing at our leisure.
I don’t want to let the word last make me sad. I have to wonder if the melancholy it evokes is more about the nature of the word itself—the finality—rather than a literal last experience. We get heavyhearted about the passage of time, don't we? Clichés like “Where did the time go?” and “Time flies” and “In the blink of an eye,” are especially true when we’re standing on the right (as opposed to the left) side of what ever it is that just ended—the place where so many things we looked forward to are now behind us. It’s rather shocking—the awareness that there is less and less time in front of us. For anything.
The upside to all this is that for every last, there’s usually a first that comes soon after. I’m releasing my first book the day college starts. I most definitely will need a distraction from her absence. I’ll be doing readings. I might even play a few songs on a guitar that I’ve lost touch with. Exciting.
So...for the next hour I will savor the best view in the house…a most favorable vantage point for clandestine student watching and fashion pondering. It was through this window I put a face on the boy whom Layla asked my permission to kiss in 6th grade…and where, a few years later, I spied her first boyfriend and wondered why he was talking, at very close range, to another (very pretty) girl. Every week I anticipated my daughter stopping by and asking for a snack. In my heart, I suspected (and hoped), it was more about connecting with me than it was about the snack.
In this little canteen, I discovered, in getting acquainted with a fellow volunteer-parent, that he was the nephew of my high school music teacher! Fond memories.
When the bell rings, and all the students scurry to the vehicle that will take them home, and the maintenance men hover about picking up remnants from lunch boxes, and a teacher walks across the empty courtyard; when I restock the beverage fridge, count the money, leave and lock the door, I will realize just how last this is. And I will be a little sad.
But I’ll be happy too.
I attended every teacher conference and art fair. Every silent auction and open school night. I never for a minute assumed this moment wouldn’t come—or that, when it did, I would think “it” didn’t go by quickly. I don’t have to ask myself why I hadn’t cherished every single day that came before on this sweet campus. Because I had.
Happy Graduation to seniors everywhere! And to parents saying good-bye, for every last, may you find a first.
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