It happens every year. Into the wide jaws of the University of North Dakota parents commend their children.

For me, it was long ago. And, Lord, I was ready.

I was a different person. It was a different time. The sight of my youngest riding off on his bicycle for the university reduced me to a state of weepiness.

He said, “Bye, Mom, I’ll be back at Thanksgiving.”

It took all I had to be brave. I told myself I would cope. I knew I had to cope.

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All alone

It wasn’t easy getting used to being all alone in that house with that man – my husband.

After all, we hadn’t held a direct, two-way conversation since 1953 when the children started to arrive.

And then they were gone.

The house was dreadfully quiet. Hideously empty.

There was trauma connected with learning how to buy those little cans of vegetables. We had to learn to how to talk to one another.

But we made the best of it.

We began to enjoy our new found freedom. We would listen to Lawrence Welk and watch Archie. We would go to bed when we felt like it. We’d lock the doors and go to sleep.

Listen for car

No longer did we listen for the car in the driveway. No longer did we leap to the incessant ringing of the telephone.

We cooked when we were in the mood. If not, we went out to eat.

Then they started coming home. Everybody said they would, but at first I didn’t believe it.

The water heater began to tremble. It held its breath as they ran the water for baths, shampoos, baths, shampoos, baths and shampoos.

The refrigerator developed a pain its side from all the times its door went open and closed.

The telephone began jumping up and down on the bookshelf.

The very studding under the plaster began to shimmy under the impact of the loud rock music that boomed constantly from the stereo.

The grocery bill was astonishing.

Before long, my husband looked at me over the top of his glasses and said, “They are home.”

Before long, they were leaving again.

Once again the battered old suitcases, the cardboard boxes, the typewriter stands would go down the stairway. With them, new knicks in the paint.

Behind, the children leave a pile of soggy towels.

With them goes the constant hum of the hair dryers.

But, Lord, I have moved on. This time I was ready.

Damp towels

The university is a fine institution. But it fails to teach its students the facts of life. They ought to have a course out there called “things everybody should know.” It wouldn’t take a Ph.D. to teach them:

  • When you heap damp towels in a pile in the corner of your bedroom, they will mildew.
  • Mildew is made up of those little green, moldy spots that make things look icky.
  • When you go out of a room at night, you should turn off the light.
  • If you hang up your clothes when you take them off, you don’t have to do that later.
  • When you bring a car home, you should leave more than a thimble full of gas in it.
  • When you wash a load of clothes, it is best to take ballpoint pens and Kleenex out of the pocket first.
  • There’s more to music than Bob Dylan, Elton John and The Guess Who.