By Martin | Friday, August 14, 2015 | 2:02 PM
(I wrote this article 15 years ago this month after we took our daughter, Meredith, to college. I am posting it again now because many parents are going through the same kinds of emotions.)
A recent incident has caused me to have deep thoughts, the likes of which I have not experienced since I gave up tryng to mentally rescue the castaways from Gilligan's Island. We moved Meredith to college last week. Like any natural disaster the National Guard was standing by. It could best be described as a cross between relocating a small town and organizing a garage sale while blindfolded. In just a few hours we suffered through mournful sorrow, throat-strangling terror, fraternity prank-like disgust, banshee-like screaming, ear piercing wailing . . . in a disturbed cat sort of way, and deluge-like sweating that would embarrass an overweight lumberjack. Then we got the doorway to her room cleared and began packing for the trip.
The phrase, "packing for college", has such an innocent ring to it. It conjures up images of a Norman Rockwell painting, with the happy family gathering a few items together in the family roadster and going off to college. Don't be fooled. To parents who have survived the ordeal it ranks right up there with other "evil-lurking-beneath-the-surface" phrases lilke, "What harm can two hamsters do?" "Can I have my birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese's?" and "What we need is an aquarium!" In reality, what seemed like Norman Rockwell on the surface evolved into Norman Bates moving his mother into the Bates Motel. It was not for the squeamish and a "parental guidance is advised" warning should have been issued..
When I went away to college I packed everything into a 1971 Ford Pinto, including my golf clubs. I had a coffee pot, a hair dryer, (no comments please) and a 12-inch black and white television with a thing called an "antenna" attached to it covered with aluminum foil. It looked like a Mars land rover. My room looked like a prison cell and my closet was three feet wide by two feet deep. It contained everything I would need for the next six years of college. Meredith's room had about the same square footage but it contained a small shopping center.
What is it about girls and decorating a dorm room? She and her roommate talked on the phone together for five years just to plan their motif, a jungle theme with tigers, leopards, etc. (My roommate and I had no motif. I didn't even know what it was. I didn't even know who he was until I got to the room. The only time our sheets matched were when we didn't wash them for a month, which gave us sort of a jungle odor motif.) By the time they finished decorating the room it looked like it was being prepped for a photo shoot for Southern Living. Hopefully in the midst of all that luxury she will be able to find her desk and use it, because her textbooks cost more than my first car.
Through the years there were always two indicators that gave us a pretty good idea as to whether or not Meredith was in the house. (This does not take into consideration the screaming and yelling with her brother). The first was the telephone. She was always on it. We knew she was home if the phone rang and it was answered after the first millisecond. The other indicator was the piano. She could not pass by without sitting down and playing. We would hear the piano and know that everything was right in our little world.
Now that she is gone to college, if the phone ever rings it may ring two or three times before we even think to answer it. And unless Beverly is practicing for church the piano is now silent. But, you know what? That's okay. Everything is still right in our world because Meredith is where she is supposed to be, making music of another kind, with a different audience. When I walk by the piano I realize why God gave us memory. The piano may be silent but the echo fills the heart. It is easy to enjoy the music when the piano is being played, but nothing tugs at the heartstrings like the music from a silent piano.