To Ithaca, with Love
by Naomi Serviss
Parent Voice -- A mother gets ready to watch her daughter launch her postgraduation life.
Four years ago my husband, Lew, and I moved our freshman daughter, Emily, into an impossibly miniscule room in Boothroyd Hall ("the Boot"). In retrospect, it was a good thing that our attention that day was consumed by lugging and sorting her stuff; if we had had more time to spend actually talking to our firstborn, we would have undoubtedly broken down in embarrassing tears and spasms of aphorisms. Which would have been the absolute worst way to leave a young person already saturated with her own terrifying separation demons.
So after all the heavy lifting and hauling, we casually bid adieu. I say "casually" because to an untrained eye we behaved in a socially acceptable manner. But inside I felt like my heart had been stepped on.
We all felt the truth: Emily was moving out of the nest. Our kids never had even been to sleep-away camp. Yes, it happens every day to a zillion other parents. But this was happening to us.
The crying came later, in the car and off and on (for me) for a good, say, three months after. We were in constant touch with Emily, through e-mail, phone, and Instant Messenger, and we got the impression that college life was a little scary but was going to be okay.
That first year was tough -- except maybe for Emily's brother, Ben, who was enthusiastic about the extra space made available in the wake of his sister's departure. I gradually learned to stop looking into Emily's bedroom at night.
Emily's sophomore year as a cinema and photography major was less traumatic for us all. She had more space (in Landon) and was getting a healthy dose of television and movie background, thanks to Park's fantastic program. She especially loved working on the student-run TV show Frequency, and we vicariously shared in her success (sometimes even calling in requests for songs and embarrassing the heck out of her).
Her third year began in the Garden Apartments, another inch closer to adulthood. She wisely took advantage of a junior semester abroad, despite our trepidations of her being in Europe during a time in history where it wasn't necessarily a good thing to be an American. Lew and I assured each other she was nearing adulthood and it was an opportunity not to be missed. So off she went to London, where she worked on a television station, and her wings stretched even more. During a break she traveled on her own to Italy, Spain, and around Great Britain.
The trip was a mission of sorts, to honor a beloved cousin, Marilyn, who had just died tragically at a young age; Marilyn had been an avid traveler and adored Italy -- and Emily. Emily ached to see Italy for herself, in part to honor Marilyn. When she returned to her London flat, she entered a writing contest in which she spoke of her quest to visit Italy for Marilyn. She won the contest, and we couldn't have been prouder.
When I visited Emily during that time, I started noticing new things in her character. I was struck by her independence and resolve. The little freshman girl squeezed into "the Boot" was a memory; before me was an evolving young woman of the world.
Senior year, Emily has been living in a studio off campus, working two jobs -- at the multiplex cinema and the campus mailroom. She's managed to juggle work and academics. It's the end of her college career, and she has sent out her résumés to TV stations. In person she seems mature and serious, unlike her sometimes-giddy, sometimes-angry, Internet-diary persona.
My daughter is entering the career world bolstered by four years of navigating Ithaca College. She has made close friends, challenged her teachers, toasted successes, coped with loss and disappointment, and morphed into a studious, compassionate young adult about to engage a world with more questions than answers. Thank you, Ithaca College, and thank you, Emily.
Naomi Serviss is a freelance writer who lives on Long Island. Three years ago she wrote in the ICQ (2001/3) about Emily's first year at Ithaca College.