I stare at the list, which is absurdly long. I did not bring half of these items when I started college. Is the list ridiculous, or sensible? I don't know the right person to ask, and anyway, I would feel embarrassed requesting assistance in figuring out something so trivial. I have worried the page by creasing it back and forth: folding it down, unfolding it, folding it down again.
All I know is that I do not want to do this. By this I mean think about what to buy and how to help my son pack for college.
Or maybe I mean let my son go. I liked how things were at our house. I enjoyed parenting two teenagers. I know!
I've been thinking about what makes a good life. Is it doing no harm, or it is more than that? Is it sharing the best part of yourself with other people so that you can leave the world a bit better than it was when you arrived on the scene?
With the graduation of my older child from high school has come, daily, the panicky breathless feeling that accompanies your stomach dropping out when you are surprised by a quick descent on a roller coaster, or on a plane. The loss of an identity that has shouldered the past eighteen years. (Yes, I know I have another child. Truly, I have not forgotten him.)
Perhaps more than others I have needed this identity, because for the longest time my life's ambition was to reverse my own childhood, to make it right, as it were, by showing myself that despite not being properly parented I could be a proper parent. Despite.
Being faced with the slow leak of the role that may have saved my life has left me unmoored, at the very least, and, yes, sad. No matter how much I want my son to fly away on sure and steady wings, I cannot deny this profound sadness its space.
Nor can I deny the insistent whisper at my ear: "What next?"
The anxiety around the packing list is only a mask for the real question, that "What next?"
My son will start college, and if we have forgotten something, I'm quite sure that he will let us know. As we live two or three miles from his freshman dorm, it will be no hardship to get him whatever we missed on move-in day.
But still I sit, folding this paper, making it smaller and smaller, willing it to disappear.