It never ceases to amaze me how a scent can bring back such vivid, strong memories. Combine that with a song and wow, it’s like being transported back in time. This morning, the air was cool and crisp without a drop of humidity. There was also a sound in the air--we Midwesterners could instantly pinpoint the time of year based on the sounds alone—the combined chirping of birds as well as Cicades—both noisily buzzing away. Summer is ending. Fall is coming. Today was the first day of school.
As I dressed C for daycare, it dawned on me that in four years, I’ll be dressing him for his very first day of school as he heads off to kindergarten. We’ll take pictures of him in his shiny new clothes and super fast tennis shoes holding a backpack filled with spanking new school supplies. If he’s anything like his momma, he’ll be thrilled to get to school, see his friends and get down to business. If he’s anything like his daddy, he’ll be thrilled to get to school, see his friends, and get outside for recess.
Before having a baby, I assumed all of my childhood memories belonged only to me. I remember posing for our photos on the first days of school, and walking off to Fairview Elementary School. I remember holding hands with my friends and eagerly sharing the details of my day with our family. But now, I’m realizing that I actually share many of those memories with my parents—and they must look back on those years gone by with a pang in their stomachs too.
As I was listening to “the oldies” station on my morning drive, I felt transported to the past as Dave Matthews easily sang through my speakers. I think the combination of the perfect fall atmosphere, laid back music, and Chanel Allure perfume made it impossible for my brain to ignore:
The year was 1996. I was a freshman at Coe College in Cedar Rapids. I had arrived on Coe’s campus with more self-assurance and eagerness than anyone should ever be allowed. I thought I had an adorable decorating sense (if you think bohemian chic is cool), a fine literary palate (having read all of the books by Christopher Pike, Danielle Steel, and Mary Higgins Clark), and an easy-going way of making friends (my last friend issue had been in middle school). Little did I know that that first year at Coe would be such a rich learning experience—and I’m not talking about academics.
I had such a difficult roommate situation, which lead to a really difficult transition to school. Luckily, one of my best friends in the whole world was at school with me—but he was busy playing on the football team and transitioning easily into the college scene. I, on the other hand, was learning just how sickening homesickness could make a person feel. I missed my family and my high school boyfriend more than I though possible. Of course, this was before cell phones (wow, was there ever a time?) and long distance calling was expensive—which made conversations rare and sometimes even more heartbreaking.
Eventually, I found some amazing people at Coe, and latched onto them! They helped me realize that perhaps things weren’t as terrible as I thought. They introduced me to other great people and by the spring semester, I think I actually felt happy.
While that fall was definitely one of the most difficult transitions I’ve ever experienced, I had no idea what was ahead of me. Looking back on my 18 year old self, I realize how naieve I was—in so many ways. I think I took myself way too seriously—and the important stuff way to casually. I had no concept of “bad”— missing my boyfriend was the worst thing I had endured. I had no concept of money—but I will admit that writing a $4,500 check to cover one semester struck a little chord with me.
And as I look back on that 18 year old “self”, I realize that my parents were there—watching that 18 year old person transform right before their eyes. I’m sure that they also have a memory of this moment in my life—but of course, it’s through such different lenses—those very special “parent lenses” that you can’t really understand until you become one.
I think about all of the changes that happen with C on a daily basis—and sometimes I get a little sad when I think about progressing to the next phase. I honestly try to stay “in the moment” as much as possible (which is why I’m probably so tired!) and capture this time before it slips away. And while we begin to create childhood memories for little C, I realize how cool it is to put on my “parent lenses” and file away my version of those same memories in my head.