Prompt: Talk about a time when you left home.
I’d never left home. No sleep away camps. No extended visits to grandparent’s houses. No weekends home alone while my parents were out of town.
So when it came time for me to get ready to leave for college, I shook with nervous excitement to be off and on my own.
I spent that summer between the end of my senior year of high school and the beginning of my first year at the University of Virginia in a perpetual battle with my parents.
Picking fights is not my personality. But that summer, I let it rip.
I instigated battles over what I would and would not bring with me to school. How myself and all my belongings would be transported to school. Who was taking me. When.
We fought over shower caddys and plastic bins. Extra long twin sheets and printers. And how many purses and multi-colored flip flops one first year undergrad girl needed.
I got into it with them. They got into it with me. That summer seemed like an endless heated battle of wills, both sides pushing each other away while pulling each other close.
Finally, on a sweltering August day, my family loaded up our Dodge Grand Caravan with all my belongings (including purses and flip flops in all colors of the rainbow) and set off for Charlottesville.
And of course there was fighting.
They wanted to stop for breakfast.
They couldn’t figure out where to park.
I got inpatient.
They wanted to look around.
I wanted to get busy unloading my stuff.
Once inside my room, we bumbled around, me trying to figure out how to get my purses and flip flops into my half of the 10 x 10 cell, my parents hoisting my bed onto risers and sliding all my plastic bins underneath.
By midday, we were all tired of the oppressive heat, waiting around for IT, and each other. So my parents said it was time for them to leave. Good, I thought. Finally. Then I can do what I want.
I dragged myself down the two flights of stairs and out to the gravel parking lot, thinking about what I needed to do after they left and how glad I was they were leaving, so I could do stuff without them in the way.
But when we reached my parent’s van, my feet slowed. I watched them walk ahead like they were in slow motion. The sun beat on my brow, and I brushed my sweaty, sticky hair our of my eyes. This was it. They were really going. They were going to get into that car and drive away. And I wasn’t. They were going and I was staying. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t going home with them.
I reached out and clung to my mom, bracing myself against her and feeling shameful for all the arguments and fights I picked that summer. My dad came around beside me and enveloped my mom and me in a giant squeeze while my little sister sobbed and clutched my arm.
Deep cries stuck in my throat, causing me to heave. My mom wiped away my tears and told me how much she loved me. My dad patted my back and told me how proud he was of me. My sister hiccuped and told me how much she’d miss me. I couldn’t even speak, the words caught in between my quaking breaths.
They held me until I stopped shaking, gave me one more squeeze, and loaded into the van. I stood there in the sun in that gravel parking lot amidst the other kids and their parents with tearful goodbyes, waving even after I couldn’t see that gray van.
Slowly I made my way back to my dorm, waiting until I could breathe evenly before entering. I made my way to the already dirty shared hallway bath and stood over the sink to splash water on my face. I looked in the mirror and saw a young girl with puffy eyes and sun on her face. She was sad and nervous and scared, that is true. But she was also a little excited, a little hopeful, and a little ready to take her first steps on her own.