My youngest is a senior in high school, and our time together is coming to an end. This year, as she’s been applying to schools and waiting for college acceptance letters (fingers crossed), I’ve been keenly aware that my role in life – hers and mine — is about to shift dramatically. I’ve been soaking up all of our last moments together as mother and not-quite-yet-adult child.
Yesterday was one of them.
Like so many other high school seniors, my daughter has been anxious since she submitted her final college applications on December 1. Each day since the middle of last week, she’s asked me in a faux-casual voice, “Any college acceptance letters today?”
“No,” I’ve answered her each time. “But no rejections, either!” And we would smile at each other.
As several of her friends started hearing from schools right after Thanksgiving, I’ve reminded her, sometimes daily, that she was unlikely to hear from her December notification schools until mid-December. I’ve reminded her that she was going to get into many of the places to which she applied, and I’ve reminded myself that the waiting is the hardest part.
Yesterday my daughter worked after school. I was at my nephew’s bowling tournament two towns over. Our plan was for me to pick her up after work and take her to the diner for dinner since my husband is out of town on business.
Something told me to go home and check the mail, first.
I went right to the mailbox, the mailbox which has taunted us for the last week or so. It was already dark out and I could barely see. There were bills and holiday catalogs, and on the bottom, a thick, large envelope. My heart pounded. I checked to see – yes, it was from one of her colleges. Yes, it was likely a college acceptance.
I took a picture of the envelope and sent it to her. This is what she had asked me to do – if the envelope is thick, and she’s not at home, take a picture and send it to her. If it’s thin, don’t say a word. What if it wasn’t an acceptance? What if it was just a printed brochure? Then I was getting her excited for nothing. I drove to her job and waited; I typed another text quickly: “Not sure if it’s an acceptance. Might just be advertising.”
“Do you have it with you?” she texted back, and I imagined her anxiously waiting for the clock to turn to 5:30 so she could leave, and then jumping up, walking out as quickly as she could carry herself, her long brown hair swinging down her back.
“Of course!” I texted back. Because, of course. I smiled.
She was out just a few minutes later. She bounded into the car. I readied my camera. “Don’t take a picture,” she said, “yet.”
She opened the envelope. A huge smile broke out over her face, a smile of unadulterated joy that we really do see rarely from teenagers, of pure pleasure and relief and excitement all at once. “I got in!” she said as she scanned the letter. Underneath was an even better letter, offering her a scholarship. “Guess how much?” she asked, scanning that one, too, the smile only broadening.
I took pictures of her holding up her acceptance package and immediately texted and emailed them to my husband, her sister, away at college, and her aunt, uncle, and grandparents. During dinner, we talked about the school, the pros and cons. “I’m going somewhere next year!” she said.
I got to witness the moment that she received her first college acceptance. I got to see that first, bright, sunshine-y, pure look of joy on her face. Me. I am the luckiest mother in the world.
Judy Mollen Walters is the author of the novels The Place to Say Goodbye (2015), The Opposite of Normal (2014), and Child of Mine (2013), as well as the forthcoming Start at the Beginning (March, 2015). She is also an essayist who has published pieces on The Huffington Post, The Mid, Kveller, Writer Unboxed, and Beyond the Margins web sites, talking about life with teenagers as well as the writing life. She lives in New Jersey with her family and pet rabbit. She can be found on Facebook at judymollenwaltersauthor.