Emma goes to college

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An image punched me in the nose yesterday.

I was skimming through Instagram when Scott, my old University of Delaware pal, posted a picture of his daughter Emma on her first day of college. The photo showed her in her sparse dorm room, sitting atop a bed, looking happy and perky and eager and, well, collegiate.

I shuddered.

How did this happen? How did she get there? Hell, how did I get here? Back when we lived in New Rochelle, N.Y. Scott and his family drove up to our house once or twice for the annual summer barbecue. I vividly recall Emma, small and giggly, trottng through our yard, a little girl with lots of little girl experiences to come. That’s the way this parenting thing works, and it’s all myth: Your kids are born, and you presume they’ll be babies forever. Then your kids are toddlers, and you presume they’ll be toddlers forever. Then they’re small children, and you presume they’ll be small children forever.

Then they’re off to college, wishing you goodbye as the tears stream from the corners of your eyes.

I remember my first day of college like it was a month ago. My parents and I pulled up to the Delaware campus. We unpacked my stuff, said our goodbyes—and then I dashed off to a meeting for the cross country team. That night, a bunch of the kids in my dorm gathered together in a room. Some put in money for beer, and a brave student went to Main Street and bribed an upperclassman into buying some cases.

I was there, but didn’t drink.

Scott, I’m guessing, sat in his room across the hall. He was always on the phone, after all, talking to the high school sweetheart who attended nearby West Chester College.

Her name was Kathy. She was blonde and pretty and lovely.

Yesterday, her daughter went off to college.