They say you can’t go back. Well, I am here to tell you, as the mother of a daughter who is in the thick of the college search process, apparently, “they” were wrong. Ophelia is entertaining the notion of attending the same college I attended. The same college her father attended. The same college where we fell in love.
Should she actually end up there, I could conceivably spend the next four years weeping. Due to both the sizable tuition payments and the sentimental overload.
A few weeks ago, I had an alarming realization: my daughter was the precise age I was when I first laid eyes on Drew. The man with whom I would eventually walk down the aisle, share a bathroom, and, without too much thought as to the consequences, reproduce.
I don’t know about you, but I look at my teenager, on the verge of independence and college living, and I wonder, “Who are you and what have you done with that child who used to try to eat the cat food and threw tea parties for stuffed animals and wrote letters to flower fairies? And why are you always borrowing my mascara?!”
When you give birth to these little wondrous creatures, women stop you on the street. Older women. Women with errant grey hairs. They are outspoken and often a bit overbearing as they spew words of warning:
“Enjoy every moment. They’ll be grown up before you know it!”
“Childhood flies by. In the blink of an eye, they’ll be in college!”
“It goes by in an instant!”
When you’re attempting to carry on a conversation about Dr. Seuss with a 5-year-old while simultaneously chasing a crazed toddler down the street and attempting to keep the baby pressed up against your maternal, leaking bosoms in a “snuggly” sack from crying, you encounter these women and their unsolicited commentary and think, “Oh go back home and finish that book and have a pedicure for me. “
“And shut up.”
Of course, I never actually said that, but I wanted to. When the highlight of your week is leaving your husband home with the kids so you can drive around town aimlessly for an hour with the radio at full volume, college applications are as far from your mind as making new discoveries related to quantum physics.
Sadly (or perhaps, happily), driving around in circles while listening to Prince and the Revolution felt like an actual vacation. Really. Had I been sent off to a hotel for a massage, an uninterrupted night’s sleep and room service, I would have self-imploded. I’m certain of it. My mommy self wouldn’t have known what to do with that quantity of pampering at that juncture.
And now, here I am. I have three children whose shoe sizes have surpassed mine, and I am visiting institutions of higher learning with a daughter who just yesterday was fashioning clothes for her Barbie dolls out of my Kotex panty liners.
When I first laid eyes on her father, I was 17 years and a whopping 10 months old. We didn’t become a real “couple” until two years later, but I knew he was the one. So when I see the guy at Starbucks checking out Ophelia and she’s batting her eyelashes at him (the ones coated in my mascara), I can’t help thinking, “Please dear Lord, don’t let this be my future son-in-law. I am not yet ready for this.”
Now, I am that woman with a few errant grey hairs (although if they start spreading to my eyebrows, I’m really not putting up with it). I generally see women with small children and diaper bags, and feel no deep sense of longing to turn back the clock, nor do I feel compelled to babble in “coochy coochy coo” baby talk.
But on our last college excursion, we passed a woman on the sidewalk with a rosy-cheeked toddler in hand. And I wanted to say, “Wait! Stop! You won’t believe this, but tomorrow she’ll be living in the same college dorm as the man whose children she will bear. And she’ll be taking your mascara with her!”
Cherish every tea party.