Monday, August 28, 2017

Empty Nest

Our latest news includes dropping off our youngest child at her college in western PA on Thursday morning. I am blessed by knowing that she is in a good place. Today is her first day of classes and I wonder how she is doing. It hasn't fully hit me yet that she is really gone because so often during the summer, she took off for days at a time to stay at her Aunt and Uncle's house over in Seneca County. I got used to the comings and goings. Any minute now she should barge in the front door with her older sister, both of them dumping their overnight bags in the entryway.

When we dropped her off. I couldn't help thinking about what my parents must have felt like when they drop me off at college 31 years ago. Their experience was quite different. My school was a secular university and the one Alicia is attending is a Christian one. While my parents were greeted with the similar scene of a very large number of other students moving in all at once, their move-in experience with me was devoid of "helping hands" and RAs who were going room to room to pray over the incoming freshmen. My parents had to come to terms with a very worldly environment and entrust me into the Lord's hands. There would be no reassuring speech from the college president that would be peppered with scripture throughout and then culminate with a prayer for both incoming students and their parents who were saying goodbye.

My roommate had arrived before me and had hung up posters of Bruce Springsteen all over her side of the room. That, in and of itself, wasn't terrible but included among those posters were ones depicting the importance of beer consumption and also one of nude downhill skiers. Although the nude skiers poster was in comic form, I knew my very conservative mother would be shocked (and she was). That sort of makes me chuckle now because that was so mild compared to what I was to face in the next several weeks. Suffice it to say that I had moved from my very conservative protective Christian home to a very secular university where virtually anything sinful was bound to go on. I do not remember my parents lingering much beyond the time it took to move me into my dorm. Maybe they took me out to lunch before saying goodbye...I'm not sure anymore. They were not invited to a speech given by the college president or to a welcome picnic following this speech, as we were. During the drive home, how did my parents feel? Did my mother feel like turning around and snatching me up in her protective arms? Did my father worry about the presence of men living on the floors above and below mine?

My husband and I helped Alicia move into an all women's dormitory, where signs are posted on the walls that stress the rule that no men are allowed into the dormitory (this did not include fathers and brothers assisting on move-in day). Thirty one years ago, my parents and I rubbed shoulders with young men who were also moving into the same dorm building. Although individual floors were designated "men's" and "women's"...there were no rules or hallway locks keeping anyone from either coming into other places unannounced, or even from staying the night there. (Rest assured we did have locks on our individual doors, which we used.) While helping me move in, instead of being greeted by a helpful crew of upper classmen called "helping hands," my parents and I struggled with boxes and packages on our own, and were given salutations of blaring hard rock music and bad language in the hallways and stairwells. When we interacted with my new roommate, it was readily apparent that she held a very different set of values than I or my family did. She also had a polar opposite personality than I did. That isn't entirely a bad thing since we all need to learn to interact with people who are very different than we are, but it caused a bit of anxiety for my parents and I. I was quiet and conservative and introverted. She was loud and crass and extroverted. I was the goody-goody...she wasn't, and didn't pretend to be. It was enough to set me and my parents on edge.

I understand that just because my daughter goes to a Christian college, it doesn't necessarily mean that all the students attending there will embrace Christianity and its values. However, I am reassured that the overall environment of this school is supportive of our values and many of the students will be as well. I will miss her, and wonder how she is doing. I will worry about her and hope that she is getting all the support she needs personally...but I am confident that she is in a good place. The support system there is strong, as long as she seeks it out if and when she needs it. Although we felt a bit melancholic, there was no agonizing as her father and I drove home that night.

I really admire my parents for their bravery. No...not bravery, but for their faith. Many years later I asked my father what they thought as they drove away from Potsdam State University all those years ago. His response was typical of him. It was one that demonstrated the deep faith my parents had in the Lord. He stated that he knew that I had a good head on my shoulders, that they had seen evidence of my personal decision for Christ, but most of all that they knew the Lord would be with me and watch over me, just as the scriptures promise. Transitioning to that school was very rough and proved to be a pivotol point in my faith for me. It still marks one of the most painful and spiritually trying times in my history, but my father was right. The Lord was with me....even in the depths of hell that I would later face as I wrestled with a serious depression and consequential brokenness.

Thirty one years ago my parents drove away from a much less than reassuring setting than Jamie and I drove away from this past Thursday afternoon. These memories and the legacy of the faith of my parents remind me that the Lord is faithful. He is with our daughter, just as he was with me...and he has been and is with my other children as well. He has been faithful all along and will continue to be.


Ruthie said...

I had a really hard time at the beginning of my empty nest. May God bless your daughter at school, and you at home. May you all grow and flourish in your new roles.

Priscilla said...

Thank you, Ruth.

Rachel said...

Love this writing. My friend Cathy Cypher (whose daughter, Erin, helped Dave and I with our Sunday school class last year) said she met you. I found out Sunday when I tapped her on the shoulder and told her what a joy it was to have Erin with us last year, and that we would miss her, but wish her the best as she begins a new chapter at Grove City. I told her that my niece was going there too. She wondered what her name was, and then what your name was, and then said, "Hey, I met Priscilla! I had no idea she was your sister!" Small world! I hope Alicia loves her college experience.

Priscilla said...

Yes, I did meet her!

Martha said...

I can only imagine their prayers when I left home 36 years ago. It must have been agonizing. They were brave and praying parents and we are the better for it.

Priscilla said...

That is certainly true, Martha.