Allison Winn Scotch is preparing her son for college, and she attends her alumni reunion. This brings back memories of her first taste in freedom.
My son’s college applications were due the same day that my book came out this month. The book The RewindThis book is about the heady period in your late teens or early twenties, when everything is temporary and the world is open to all possibilities. It was strange, I have to admit, to be trying to balance his applications with this fictional ode of a time in mine when I was his ages.
I used to write often for many moons (ok, maybe a decade) Parents. I interviewed experts and shared my own stories.
My oldest son is now ready to fly. Although he is now ready and I have moments when it feels like I am ready, it still feels impossible. As an author who spends so much time in the nostalgia of her characters, I thought I would be better prepared. We know how precious our time is with our children, so we do our best to send them off into the world with the wind at our backs.
Yet, it all seems so quick and so quickly.
Mid-Life Crisis Not Quite
It is a common thought that I have these days about my parents. It was amazing to see how they felt when their youngest child, I, was ready for them to move on. I went to college on the opposite coast from my childhood home—a six-hour flight away. We didn’t have email, we didn’t have FaceTime. Long distance calls were very expensive. I still have the memories of my mom moving my stuff into my dorm. And I remember calling my parents from the library or my dorm when I needed to talk about something. The moments between? Those were the best times for me. These were my lifelines. They helped me build a life and forge lifelines that went far beyond what I had experienced as a child. It was a beautiful, resonant moment. The freedom to do what I wanted, eat whatever I liked, stay up late, sleep early, build friendships with people I didn’t know, fall in and out of love, get back in touch, and fall in LOVE with myself.
I was able to return to college a few months back for a delayed reunion. Due to COVID, alumni from three years ago were able to attend. It was a wonderful experience that felt like we were twenty again, even though most of us were in our 40s with some people pushing 50. We all marveled at how late it was and how disgusting the beer we had chosen to drink. We returned to our respective homes with a surreal sense of wonder that we’d been able to recapture the magic of our youths, if only for 48 hours, and that magic took a few weeks to shed. We shared photos in text chains, and we shared memories that some of our had forgotten while others hadn’t.
It was bittersweet when we finally reoriented our lives back to middle-aged life. Not because we couldn’t or wouldn’t stay in touch. It was simply because we were too young to have that kind of optimistic electricity. It is that electricity that I find myself lost in when I write. This electricity is what I am most excited about for my son. It’s not that mid-life isn’t wonderful—it brings its own set of new joys. It’s a completely different experience than when you were 20.
Flying the Nest
It can be difficult to apply for college. You’ll argue with your child who, inexplicably, is now an adult and believes they know more than the rest of you. What does it matter where your child goes? Only in that they are happy. Nearly all of them will. And if they aren’t, they transfer or they find a different path—maybe not college at all. Most of the time, the children are okay.
What I want most for my son and my daughter is the combination of what I capture on paper and what I was able to see for myself. It was that moment in your life when everything seemed possible. Or maybe that’s just how I look back on it now. I know that I couldn’t wait to graduate; I know that I spent half my senior year miserable and complaining.
My son will experience all of this, no matter where he goes. The romances that will break his heart, the professors who make him smarter, the exams that he will bomb, the friends who will become indelible, the late nights where he’ll sit outside until the sun comes up talking about something that feels revolutionary.
I’m ready for my son to push off, and he’s ready to go. Time is still a stealthy. For my parents when I left, I’m sure. For myself and my youth. The firstborn in my family is now. I am trying to preserve a little of the magic by writing back.
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