It is done (and no one cried)

By Mir
August 12, 2016

Y’all. We made it. Chickadee’s at college.

Now is the appropriate time for an AMEN and a HALLELUJAH and any other celebratory exclamation of your choosing. This was a long road and I would’ve happily changed MANY MANY parts of it, given the option, but in the end it led her right where she needed to be. Have I mentioned how proud I am of this kid? She astounds me every day.

So yes, it is bittersweet. But everyone warned us we’d all be bawling and I said NUH UH and everyone did the whole “Just you wait” and guess what? It was great. I’m not going to tell you my eyes weren’t a little glossy by the time we said goodbye, but the overwhelming feeling for us (and I think her, too) was joy. This was a Very Big Deal.

Everything JUUUUUUST fit in her car, save for her fridge, which worked out just fine; she and I left at the ass-crack of dawn in her car, and Otto came later with the fridge. This is because yesterday was insane: It was move-in day for Chickie, yes, but her assigned unloading time was exactly the same time as Monkey’s first class at our local university. So while I was pulling up to the curb and a veritable swarm of student volunteers descended on the car (no joke; we pulled up, gave her room number, and the crew head barked out the number and twenty seconds later the car was picked CLEAN. By the time I parked and returned to the dorm, she was checked in and everything she owned was in her room), Monkey was bounding up the steps towards Calculus.

Move-in was smooth. Monkey’s assessment of Calc (shared later), however, was “Everyone seemed to be sleeping and it’s also way too easy.” (My kind, supportive response: “Not everyone is a morning person like you, and maybe don’t assume the whole class is going to be easy from your experience on the very first day, Mr. Hubris.”)

I told Chickie before we got there that I was going to make up her bed and await directions on everything else, so as to best stay out of her way. That didn’t mean we didn’t have a few “Would you like me to—” “NO JUST SIT DOWN AND STOP TALKING AT ME PLEASE” moments, but all in all, it worked.

That lofted dorm bed, man. It’s seven feet in the air. We pulled the mattress down and got all the layers settled (bed bug encasement! foam egg-crate pad! cover! fitted sheet!) and then hoisted it back up together, and then I climbed up there to finish arranging. HOOBOY. I’m not a fan of heights and I nearly made myself INTO the bedding in my effort to stay away from the edge. Also, I may have muttered an incantation of anti-bacterial pleading while I did it, as the effort required to change the sheets more or less leaves me convinced IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN.

She puttered and arranged and I took on tasks as directed. We brought a roll of drawer liner and I was allowed to take care of lining the bathroom drawers. I unwrapped her hanging clothes and stuck a few Command Hooks where needed.

By the time Otto arrived, she was settled, her roommate was hanging pictures and putting on finishing touches, and Otto set to work arranging and leveling the fridge and then running coax cable around the room. Once that was done, we grabbed Chickie and one of her suitemates and went out to lunch at a truly mediocre restaurant, and then stopped on the way back to campus to find her a cactus.

Someone told me a cactus is actually a “recommended purchase” for college students, though I’ve never seen that, myself. She just got it into her head that she needed one. I’d held her off during this last month of packing craziness by promising to buy her one once we arrived, and she hadn’t forgotten. We ended up wandering around a garden center until we found a rack of succulents, at which point I got to witness the miracle that was two supposed-adult teenagers COOING AT PRICKLY PLANTS. “This one is so cute!” one would squeal, then “OHMYGODTHISONEISADORABLE!” and so on. Very odd. In the end, she couldn’t decide between two, so like the sucker I am—and because they were both tiny—I bought her both of them.

I received this photo later that evening:


(This morning I found the same pic on her Instagram, with the label of “My best friends.” Should I be worried?)

I thought I was doing a fun and sneaky thing before we left—I had Otto smuggle in a bag of goodies I’d packed and then while he and Chickadee were dealing with the fridge, I extracted it and tossed it up on her bed. I figured she wouldn’t see it until long after we left, because the bed is in the stratosphere and you couldn’t see the bag from the floor. But of course RIGHT BEFORE WE LEFT FOR LUNCH she climbed up there and I was all suave about it, as you can imagine. “DON’T LOOK AT IT! YOU SEE NOTHING! GET DOWN! YOU CAN’T OPEN IT UNTIL WE LEAVE!”

inner-birdEverything in the bag was small and unremarkable, really. Some candy, some fresh colored pencils, duct tape, lavender room spray, that sort of stuff. I knew better than to go for “meaningful.” But the one exception was a mini-plaque I’d actually spotted… gosh, I don’t even know. Six months or a year back? A long time ago. But as you can imagine, I bought it immediately, knowing exactly when she needed to receive it. We hadn’t even made it back onto the highway before she sent me, first, a series of texts about how she’d opened the bag and “now everything is all over my bed” (followed by a short argument about how she was supposed to WAIT TO OPEN IT and she was all I DID WAIT, YOU’RE GONE), followed by a thank you, followed by a picture so I’d know that the plaque had been added to her wall right over her bed.

My little songbird is on her way. No tears. Only joy.


  1. Melissa

    Well I’m sobbing. So happy for you all!

  2. AlisonC

    Tears of joy xx

  3. Linh

    Much happiness! Wonderful!

  4. hokgardner

    These posts always seem to come at the exact time I need read them. I’m watching my daughter, who has dealt with some of the same challenges as Chickie, begin her pre-start-of-school melt-down phase, and I am having flashbacks to two years ago this week when we had to hospitalize her for the second time. Things are much better now – no cutting, no purging – and she’s got the support she needs, but I’m still twitchy and jumpy and waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m also wondering how she will ever be able to go to college.

    And then I read these posts about your daughter who has survived and is off to her next adventure, and I hold out hope that in three years, we will be in the same position.

    Thank you, again and again, to you and your daughter for sharing your stories. You have made a difference and you have helped.

    • Mir

      I promise you that in the thick of it I could never see a day when she was this stable, either. Keep the faith—a few years is forever in troubled-teen-land. xoxo

      • Kyre

        So, I am a very occasional reader. But last time I was here things with Chickadee were so SO very hard. I think that’s why I took a break, I was so sad for her and for you I couldn’t deal. But today! Today I come back to your site (it’s been years I think…) and I’m just so very happy to see this. Congratulations to you both, to all four of you. I’m so glad to see the light of Chickadee again. Hugs to you, Mir.

    • Christine

      Same! Our daughter (who is relentlessly hard on herself regarding her grades) is about to start her sophomore year in three days with almost none of her summer prep homework completed because we spent the whole summer coping with massive anxiety and OCD crises and are just now getting in to see a psychiatrist this week. But she keeps talking about college and I remind myself that Mir’s daughter made it.

  5. Rachel

    Yeah Chickie! =)

    • Ruth Bendig

      I am so happy for you all. Go, Chickie!!

  6. Jodi

    This is the best. Much love to you both.

  7. Lisa

    Awesome post! I’m putting together a package for my college junior, which includes poo-pouri and Star Wars band-aids cause I’m cool like that. When my older son started college (about 4-6 hours away depending on traffic), I didn’t cry until he left again at Thanksgiving. After I dropped my younger son at the high school for freshman orientation this morning, I started tearing up before I even left the parking lot.

  8. suburbancorrespondent

    I don’t cry when they go to college, either. My main feeling is one of relief. But I’m thinking that whoever is selling those bedbug encasement things for mattresses is ripping people off. Bedbugs live in the woodwork. It will be good for sealing in dust mites, though.

  9. Nelson's Mama

    Mir, I’m so happy for you and Chickie!

  10. el-e-e

    So happy for you, and for her. But sorry, I broke the ‘no tears’ rule just a little bit.

  11. Karen R.

    Go Chickie! A good start to life’s next great adventure.

    May the move-in fairies always be available. We never saw them again after DD’s week-before-returning-classes freshman move-in.

  12. MamaBear

    This is what I will be doing with my youngest on Sunday. She’s had a lot of the same issues as Chickie. Am I nervous, YES! Am I excited for her, YES! I don’t know which emotion to let loose with from one moment to the next. I never thought we would see this day, either. Here’s to spreading their wings!

  13. Lauren

    In terms of my own mental stability, there’s a Tom Petty (I know I know I know) lyric I go back to a lot: “It never goes away, but it all works out.” I am SO happy to see things working out for Chickie. She’s going to crush it.

  14. Angela

    That’s so beautiful!! I’m so happy for y’all!

  15. Brenda

    So happy and excited! I well remember the craziness of moving in my freshman year and how overwhelming it was. My senior year I had a friend help me loft my bed, but I was so worn out that I slept on my couch for at least a week before I worked up the energy to climb up and make my bed. Here’s to a great year for Chickie, George, and Harriet!

  16. Ali

    My line of work involves witnessing others in their darkest times. So my workdays are hard and mostly filled with the sadness. My self-care before heading home to my family is to spend 15-20 minutes of finding the little bits of joy to clear my head. Puns? Yes! Cat videos? Yes! Witty tumblr and twitter? Yes!

    Today, though, those little cacti with names were perfect. They are so hopeful!

  17. TC

    My daughter was a top bunk on a very high bed as well, last year, and, um, let’s just say that when I was up there after winter break and noticed the sheets were the same ones, well…let’s just say it was the first such changing. So I put TWO LAYERS of sheets on mattress at that time, and she pulled off the top one when she got back there for spring break. And that was it for sheet changing for the year.

    Let’s just say that the fact that this year she’s going to be in an offcampus student apartment with REGULAR BEDS THAT ARE JUST A COUPLE OF FEET OFF THE FLOOR makes me spectacularly happy. But I can’t guarantee they’ll be changed that much more often anyway! ;-p

  18. Mom24_4evermom

    I am so happy for all of you.

  19. Jenny

    Oh, sniff! Best wishes to Chickie!

  20. Stacy

    Following your (and Chickie’s story for a long time) – I am so happy for both of you!

    a) I had a collegiate plant called Oliver – he lived for almost 13 years. He went bye bye when I figured out he was the kind that could make pets sick.

    b) I guarantee that bed is never getting made.

  21. Diane

    Your title is wrong because I CRIED! I can’t believe I’ve been reading since Chickie was a little. Also, I may have had a little nostalgia in my eye remembering my first day of college. (One of my first college friends who was also a roommate for the next two years is still a close friend and only lives about 10 mins away!)

  22. Chuck

    Congratulations! Also, that plaque is made of AWESOME.

  23. Daisy

    Tears? Well, maybe a lump in my throat. Sending my girl to college was easy compared to watching her make a life for herself independently. She had a rough week not too long ago, so I sent her a Care Package: a package of colored pencils and one of the new Lisa Frank coloring books for grownups. Like your plaque, it just seemed right. Sniff. Gulp.

  24. Meri


    Chickie does know that cactuses do need occasional watering, right? My college roommate didn’t think hers ever did and it died before the end of the semester. I tried…

  25. Sarah

    My whole family brought me to move in to residence (six hour drive from home, parents, three younger brothers, dog etc).
    It was pre-cellphone days and I decided to be cool and wait a few days before calling home.

    I can still remember the forlorn phone message that was waiting for me when I got back to my room after the second day of frosh week activities
    “Hi Sarah, it’s your dad calling. We just wanted to hear how you are settling in, so give us a call when you get a minute. 1-613-###-#### ”
    The phone number was the sweetest clincher that spoke volumes.

    PS if Monkey’s calculus class is anything like the ones I remember, the first weeks will be making sure everyone is on the same page with terminology.
    The chapter topics are familiar, but they’ll be going deeper than high school courses.
    The biggest challenge for most of my classmates was that our first year calculus and algebra work was all calculator free – brush up on long division and fraction rules!

  26. Karen

    It’s a beautiful thing. Congrats and best wishes for the awesome future you are striving towards!

  27. CuriousParty

    With brave wings she flies. Good job Chickie, good job Mama.

  28. Chris

    Congrats to you and especially to Chickie – what an exciting milestone for your family!

  29. Meg

    Yay! Congrats to Chickadee and best wishes for a wonderful freshman year. And to the rest of you for a great senior year for Monkey. Have followed your blog for a long time now and always great to read happy news.

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