When The Child was two weeks old—and a weeny teeny thing she was, too, having been born three-and-a-half weeks early at 5 pounds, 5 ounces—I took her in to the pediatrician, a lovely Scottish man with a gentle demeanor and a dry sense of humor.
He picked her up, held her above his face, jiggled her a little, and seeing her squinchy expression, said, "Oh, it's a tough old world, isn't it?"
I laughed—something about the idea of that tiny little person with the bunched-up face thinking deep thoughts about this tough old world struck me as touchingly hilarious. And I laughed because in my new-mother over-anxiety, I'd been feeling it was a pretty tough old world, too.
I'd stand over her crib and look at this vulnerable little speck floating on an ocean of Sandra Boynton-themed bedding and start sobbing. "She doesn't even KNOW how helpless she is—and how totally inadequate I am!"
Despite me, she lived.
Now she's floating on an ocean of college life and I'm 3,000 miles away adjusting to what my sister called 'the new normal.' And I keep hearing Dr. MacLaren's voice, now paraphrasing himself, saying, "It's a funny old world, isn't it?"
When I went to college, I maybe talked to my family once a week on the phone and sent a few letters each quarter. My mom would mail me my dad's articles clipped from the newspaper, which, honestly, I mostly didn't read. (Because what could have been more important than my life?) I was so self-absorbed, I gave no thought to what they might have been feeling about my absence; and after a week or so of homesickness, I'm not sure I gave too much thought to home at all. Eek, sorry, Mom, Dad and Nancy!
So far in my daughter's two-week college career, she and I have communicated by phone, mail, text messages, e-mail and AOL Instant Messenger. And mental telepathy, though maybe I imagined that part.
As I said to her via text—or was it AIM—I'm trying not to go all Spanish Inquisitiony on her. I promise, I'm not calling every minute. And she hasn't downloaded Skype yet, so I'm not making judgments on the state of cleanliness in her dorm room.
It's just a funny world, where we bring these little creatures into existence and then act as if we don't want them to grow up. Where we send them off to college to be independent and then use every conceivable technology to make sure they're getting enough sleep or making friends.
But I can feel a transition happening, too. I drove along Santa Monica Boulevard the other day—as it happens, the same route The Child and I always took to school—without feeling sad for the loss of that time, just appreciative of what it was. I'm excited about her college life, but busy in my own. I want to hear about her adventures, but also anticipating the ones we'll be having as Stan and I prepare for the move to New York. I'm looking forward more than back.
I know mine is not really a tough old world; we have it pretty easy in the big scheme of things. It's just a rich soup of a world—funny, nerve-wracking, rewarding, infuriating, complicated and consuming.
As Miss Hepburn said in The African Queen, "I never dreamed that any mere physical experience could be so stimulating!"