Almost the only thing our older son knew for sure about as he conducted his college search last year was that he wouldn’t be going to college in the Philadelphia area. So after weighing his options last spring, he of course found that he loved Penn and decided to stay in the neighborhood after all. His dorm adjoins, almost literally, the law school where I teach.
This meant we wouldn’t have the long car or plane trip that many of his friends’ parents had when they took their kids to college. When we dropped our son off at college on Thursday, we took the same commuter train I always take, and walked the same streets I always walk. And yet it still seemed a little disorienting. It was as if we were inhabiting a parallel universe. The day before this had been my train to work, but Thursday it was a train taking our first son to college. The streets were familiar, but they suddenly seemed strange.
My wife mentioned today that our son says he probably won’t come home often during the year, perhaps not even for Thanksgiving. This reminded me of the first letter I got from my mother, a month or two into my freshman year of college. “I was beginning to wonder if I still had a son in college,” the letter began, and it went on to explain that my mother had run into the parents of a fellow freshman, who assured her that I was still alive and well. (My friend was a far better correspondent than I was.) I don’t think my son can match that, and don’t plan to let him try.