Today as I walked home past the residence hall where most of my students live, I saw a steady stream of them coming out of the door carrying boxes, furniture, bags, lamps, and plastic bins full of possessions. Waiting for them in the parking lot, tailgate already lowered on the pickup or SUV, was a mom, dad, or grandma.
And I suddenly saw the kids as their parents must see them. Are these the same children they raised and sent off to school? These enthusiastic or cynical intellects, who have adopted idiosyncratic personal styles to set themselves apart -- these accomplished scholars who've seen too much and been too worked over by the system -- these anxious seekers whose heads are full of grad school and fellowship offers, unable to contemplate returning to the room where they did their elementary school homework. What do the parents see? An adult? A stranger? A child playing dress-up?
These days with my children feel so intensely real, sometimes. It's impossible to wrangle myself out of the present moment to imagine what's coming as they grow up. And looking at move-out day, the temporary re-collision of worlds for those who have been living such separate lives, I see that my wildest fantasies could never be up to the challenge. Yet I already feel a proleptic pang for the young man and young woman my children will become, and what a gulf will separate them from the seven-year-old playing Wii Fit and the four-year-old hopping around the room to the theme from Star Wars.