I got up early that morning because I was about to take one of the biggest steps of my life. I was leaving for college. Apparently I was the only one who got the memo.
If it were a movie, there would be regal and important sounding music in the background. The kind of music that tells the audience that a life-changing event was about to happen.
This was a huge change in many families with planning in the works for many years. It was an event that brought out pride in parents. For many it had a sad element to it, since their child was striking out as an adult for the first time and leaving home. The family would have to adjust to the large hole left in the home by the absence of their beloved child.
It was August and I was getting ready to leave and move into the dorms at Emporia State. ESU was a college about two hours away where several of my siblings had attended part or all of their past college years.
School didn’t start for a week, but this was the very first day you could move into the dorms and I was planning on getting there early. I planned on being there at the time they unlocked the doors. I didn’t want to miss anything.
I was going to be rooming with a good friend from my high school graduating class, Brad. I was originally signed up to attend the University of Kansas, but I met a girl who was going to Emporia. The priorities and hormones of an 18 year old boy had taken control.
Don’t worry. If anything, my life is proof that God has a sense of humor. As with any plan when you are 18, it eventually worked out…..She dumped me and I transfered after two years.
On this particular morning it was sunny and hot. I had carefully planned the move. I was taking what was critical to college and deciding what wasn’t important.
I had loaded my clothes into plastic trash sacks and thrown them into the back seat of my car along with some deodorant and a tooth brush. OK, I got all the unimportant things done.
Now to the critical items for college. The important items were my Pioneer Stereo. It had a direct drive turntable, cassette deck player, equalizer, am-fm radio, and the biggest two speakers I could find. These were my prized possessions, so I wrapped them in blankets and carefully placed the components in my car. Of course I couldn’t forget the boxes with all my cassettes and vinyl albums. I even stuffed pillows between the stereo and the dash, just in case I had to stop suddenly. The stereo rode in front because it was so important.
At our house, it was just expected that we would go to college. It was never really questioned. I don’t even remember talking about it with my parents. As a minister with a large family, dad had not been able to save money for a college fund, so going to college was on our own for the most part. I remember getting a small scholarship for good grades, but most of it was paid through financial aid. It was Pell Grants, work-study, and student loans.
When I got to the dorms, I moved my stuff into the room. My friend Brad and the other two guys in our room all arrived as well. The first thing we did was hook up the stereo and begin playing loud music. I look back on it now and I think we were just trying to attract girls.
It actually worked to a point. They would make their way down our hall in groups of 2’s and 3’s looking for the source of the music. We’d try to be charming, but we were still just freshman boys. We’d try to say something cool, but they’d just laugh and keep walking.
The truly interesting part was actually taking place all around me. I had moved in early, which meant that for the next week I watched several thousand kids move into the various dorms. I was shocked that most of them had their parents with them. The parents helped carry stuff up to the dorm room and actually meet their childs roommates. They’d then go as a group to explore campus, get supper, or go buy school supplies.
I just stood there and watched this ritual. Many of them even posed for pictures. In several instances I saw parents and students begining to tear up.
I’m not telling this to make fun of them in any way. In fact, quite the opposite, I was jealous.
As the years passed, it became apparent to me how special that time must have been for those families. They may have been the first in their family to go to college or their parents may have actually felt a loss from their child leaving home. Many of the kids were probably scared to be away from home and already getting homesick.
For me it was a very different experience. My parents had forgotten that I was leaving for college and up until the day I drove off, they still thought I was going to KU. I had to remind them that I had actually changed which school I was going to. My first choice had been K-State, but my little sister was already going there and I wanted to go someplace different. So I enrolled at KU. Of course a girl got involved so I changed to Emporia State at the last minute. Mom and dad had no involvement in any of this drama. They were too busy with church events and other family activities that were always going on.
Child number 7 going to college wasn’t on their calendar. They couldn’t even tell you what I was majoring in. For the record it was physics.
Yes, the day I left for college blossomed bright and sunny. I was thinking about all of lifes essentials; girls, music, beer, and a little about school.
Mom opened the front door of the parsonage and stepped out into the driveway. “Where you going?”, she asked. “Going to college”, was my reply. “Really? Guess I’d forgotten you were going”, she said.
“Don’t forget to pack extra socks and underwear”, were her pearls of wisdom for the aspiring student. I have to admit, even now, those items are still rather important to me.
I ate some lunch and told mom goodbye. It wasn’t much of a goodbye. It was about as dramatic as saying “hey I’m going to Walmart for some electric tape, see you after while.” It was that subdued. They didn’t appear too concerned at all.
I’m guessing that looks can be deceiving, though. Mom and dad probably took a few moments of thoughtful reflection. I’m betting they were thinking deep loving thoughts about their young son and his wonderful achievements in life, thus far. They marveled with pride about his stellar future in academia………….OR……………
….as I drove away mom slipped dad $20 and said in a surprised voice “Well, you won that bet………..I could have swore he wouldn’t survive till college.”