The journey starts now

The familiar scene plays out all across the country about this time. Student volunteers direct anxious parents where to park the family’s overloaded van to unload a mountain of stuff, then tearfully hug their daughter or son. Permanent residents of college towns like Chapel Hill try to steer clear of the streets surrounding campus where on a good day one can witness imaginative driving and parking performances.

Our family performed this ritual three times in the 1980s at three very different campuses with three daughters, themselves so very different from one another. Each had chosen a college or university that turned out to be a perfect fit. Our eldest chose the University of North Carolina, where she would study math and statistics in the honors program. Her sister next in line headed for Warren Wilson, a small college in the mountains blessed with an outstanding faculty and a strong emphasis on arts and literature. Her kid sister selected Guilford, a Society of Friends college in Greensboro, where she majored in biology. All three adapted to their new surroundings quickly and performed well as students.

Two are in their 50s now, hard to believe, and the third isn’t far behind in reaching that mark. One holds down an important position with a major banking and investment firm. Another, an ordained minister, serves as chaplain at three elder care facilities. The third presides over a first-class dramatic arts program that she created at a middle school in Georgia. Each daughter, married to a devoted husband, is mother to two children. Five of these six wonderful grandchildren are girls. Are we proud? You bet.

Each of these journeys began with that sweaty, cranky August day, packing and unpacking, loading and unloading, hugging and weeping, saying good-bye and returning home to stare at the empty bedroom, and now here we are, a couple of decades and more later, so proud of the grown women these little girls have become, looking back with gratitude at the colleges and universities that did so much to shape their lives and ours.

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