A Road Trip With My Daughter

Her employer gave her the two days off she requested…but not during actual spring break. Her senior year and she wouldn’t be able to go for one last beach excursion with her friends. She came home from work the night she found out, sad, frustrated, and picked up the mail as she pulled in the driveway.

And there was the acceptance letter from a “reach” university, far from home. It was the university that, when she listed all the things that described her personality and her foundation of beliefs, was nearly a perfect fit. And it was the most expensive.

It took nearly twenty minutes after sharing the evening of emotions that she reached in the acceptance package and found the letter offering an extraordinary amount of money. And no longer was this the “reach” school. It was a real possibility.

The two days her employer gave her suddenly became an opportunity. We decided to road trip to visit the school, 6 hours away from home.

We booked a hotel room, packed a small bag and headed out. I drove, of course, because I’m still the mother, and I still need to have some sort of control of our life as mother and daughter. She turned on the radio, to a country music station, of course, and proceeded to dance in her seat, with hand interpretations of each song and a sparkle in her eyes, for nearly six straight hours. Watching her, and giggling with her, and sometimes turning down the volume just long enough to express some thoughts about decision making and the future, was, well, perfect.

We checked into our hotel, set out again to shop, ate a little of our dinner and a lot of our dessert and went back to get rest before the next day, where we would tour the university. I slept early, but fitfully and we woke the next morning and seemed to move in slow motion through the morning routine.

We couldn’t find the breakfast we wanted and worried it was a bad omen. But she turned on the radio and suddenly the mood changed for the better. We were off to see the potential for her future. For my future, too.

The drive into the school was beautiful and we seemed to travel upwards, higher and higher until there was the gate, and the stately old stone buildings. We parked, found the tours and began following our tour guide Sarah through campus.

I struggled to find the positives, to watch my daughter’s eyes for clues of what she was seeing. We’d mumble little things to each other as we progressed with our group through campus, not revealing much of what our real thoughts were. We left the tour early to take an admissions officer up on his invitation for a personal meeting and he greeted us with a kind smile and direct eye contact that took us both a bit off guard.

And when we thanked him for answering our, my, questions, and I headed to the elevator and suggested we go get university shirts to show we were here, she said very simply, “I’m not going to go here.”

I realized then that I had struggled during the whole day to find something to grasp onto as the reason why she would attend that school and although the list of its positives were long, the reality was that everywhere I looked, I didn’t see her. I couldn’t see her walking on that campus, I couldn’t see her in the dorm, I couldn’t see other people who looked like they’d be her future friends.

And when we got back on the highway home and talked about the experience, it was all I could do not to cry, out of relief that her decision was my decision, too. And that she wouldn’t be so far away next year. And that the reality was that my daughter, my friend, was actually going to college and this road trip of ours was really so much more than a visit to a far away university.

I caught myself daydreaming this morning, thinking at first that I should have tried harder to videotape moments of our road trip. But it hit me suddenly and hard…I didn’t need a videotape or a photo. I have seventeen years imprinted on my heart.

And I can’t wait to experience the moments yet to come.


Author: jillswain

Former Mayor Chamber of Commerce Exec. Director Advertising consultant Mom and spouse (30 years and counting!) Rec league girls' volleyball coach Champion of all things Huntersville, North Carolina

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