College Bound

by Jennifer Kaczor

I didn’t anticipate kissing his neck. I had thought only seldom, and very, very fleetingly, about the moment at all. In fact, I’d spent more time trying to NOT think about the goodbye, then I had spent considering how it would go. I am, you see, an expert supressor.  As a rule, I do not cry in public. In reality, I don’t cry much at all. It makes me very uncomfortable. Partly, I am embarrassed, but primarily, I am afraid that if I start, I won’t be able to stop. Losing control of myself, physically or emotionally, has always been an enormous source of stress for me. Ironically, the simple fear of losing control causes me more stress than the reality. But such is the life of a neurotic. So, saying goodbye to my beloved son, as he left for college, was not just something I was not looking forward to, it was something I was dreading.

He left this morning. And so, here I sit, at the computer, hoping that through writing about his departure, I can simply analyze my emotions instead of experiencing them. But his bedroom is right behind me. . . and the door is ajar. When he lived here (yesterday) the door was not ajar.  When he lived here, it was not only always closed, it was always locked. The result of having six siblings. But today, from my writing desk, I can see the clothes he didn’t take, yesterday’s socks, his football, and the various school papers and forms from senior year that no longer matter.

Except that all of those papers, all of those jumped-through hoops, earned him a scholarship and put him on a plane today. They put him a mile above the earth–above me. And I cannot get him back. I cannot get my 6lb.14oz., slightly pre-mature baby boy back. I cannot get the nervous toddler sitting stonily on Santa’s lap back. I cannot get the imaginative, sword-wielding six year old back. I cannot get the basketball-obsessed 12 year old back. I cannot get the high school football player back.  And I have a headache from trying so hard to not cry.

This morning, at 5:30 a.m., it was time to say goodbye. His bags were packed. The Suburban was loaded. But he was suddenly hungry and asking for breakfast. Automatically, I warmed a hamburger–leftover from his farewell dinner–and wrapped it in a paper towel, set in on a small plate, and held it, lamely, in my hand.  We faced each other.

He felt sorry for me. I sensed it, rather than saw it. I could not look at him. He muttered something about being home for Christmas. I said nothing. I wrapped my free arm around his neck, and then for one instinctive, primal moment, I nuzzled my lips into his neck, inhaled his scent, and kissed him softly.

I will probably never do that again. He will probably never let me. It was the most intimate moment we have shared since I stopped breast-feeding him — like a bookend set in place to secure his childhood.

— Jennifer Kaczor lives in Los Angeles with her husband and seven children.

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