jen burklowAs evening fell, we’d head to Aurelio’s – the most popular pizza spot in Macomb – and join other families having a farewell dinner. We’d spend the night, have a last breakfast with Cait and point the van north and then east. On the ride home, Sara and I would have each other to fill the void left by her big sister.

Heck, we even have two CDs Sara made for traveling to and from Macomb appropriately titled “Macomb Songs 1” and “Macomb Songs 2,” both loaded with road trip tunes we enjoy.

But no to-school road trip this year. I found myself wondering why I’m feeling melancholy about it. Why will I miss trudging up and down stairs in the heat and humidity that defines late-summer weather in central Illinois? Why will I miss the stock-up trip to Macomb’s Wal-Mart (the town’s social hub) filled with other college families doing the same thing? Why will saying good-bye be different when done at home instead of in Macomb?

Well, it’s another step down the road of independence for my daughter. Certainly that’s what I want for Cait, but it’s still hard to come to grips with the fact that she’s ready to move on and live her own life independent of her father and me.

I’ll miss the sense of satisfaction that I get from helping get her settled – there’s a feeling of comfort derived from knowing she’s ready to start the year. And I’ll miss the atmosphere of promise and new beginnings that permeates campuses across the country during those first days of school. I remember those feelings of anticipation about the new year and the joy of reconnecting with friends from my college days and relive them, albeit vicariously. 

But most of all I’ll miss Caitlin and that little bit of extra time together the trip to school affords us. This year, though, she’s a senior, so come spring I will be climbing into the van to bring her and all her belongings home. 

With that milestone, she’ll be setting course on a new journey – truly finding a life of her own. 

Jennifer Burklow is the mother of two daughters who is about to embark on college search No. 2 with daughter No. 2.

Read Cait’s side of the story here.