My second daughter Garbrielle, 19, went off to her first year of college in August. She is at Lewis & Clark in Portland, not that far away, but it feels like forever. We knew we would miss her terribly and we did. But she called often and told us all about her dorm room (the usual prison cell with four girls jammed into double-bunks); her roommates (two greats ones and one bummer); her professors (intimidating); the weather (the rain has not started yet); tramping from her dorm to the academic buildings (far, far away); the boys (plenty of them but no comments); and things like how much she enjoys downtown Portland (small but cosmopolitan).
Gabby was always the calm, amusedly commanding one in the family. She clearly was the leader of her high school pack, a gaggle of friends who hung out at a big “rumpus” room in my home. When she left for college, they all left too and the house seemed a ghost of itself. It does not help that my youngest, Harrison, now a junior in high school, in a twinkling will be gone too. Then the house really will be alone.
I know I should not mourn in anticipation. Daughter Number One, Elizabeth, is a senior at a college in London. Now Gabby is gone and soon Harrison. The birds are flying the nest. It is a natural progression. I know that. It does not help.
This last weekend Gabby returned home after taking her mid-term exams. It was only for two nights. It felt like homecoming. Her friends who could make it re-occupied the rumpus room and left it the usual mess. I did not even complain. I was truly happy just for her to be here. So was her brother. He plays it cool, but he was the first to call to tell me she was returning and he was one side of ecstatic. He even insisted I get her a present (well, actually, he insisted I have the carpet in her room cleaned. The carpet—if it could talk—would tell the real Gabrielle Ray Story).
Late on Saturday night, I quizzed her and her friends about their college experiences and here was the consensus:
- Academically, it is a lot easier than Sage Hill, where they went to high school.
- Being a freshman girl is far superior to being a freshman boy; the girls get into upper-class parties, the boys don’t.
- The professors are PhDs who give lectures before hundreds in big halls. You can see them personally if you wish, but cannot walk in; you need an appointment.
- They never knew Laguna was such a paradise.
Then by mid-afternoon Sunday, she was gone again and so were they, and Harrison promised he would clean up Gabby’s mess. Soon. Maybe tomorrow.
Michael Ray grew up in Corona del Mar and now lives in Laguna Beach. He makes a living as a real estate entrepreneur and is involved in many non-profits.