A Reflection Before Moving On

My husband and I brought a chapter of our lives to a close last weekend. Our youngest is now a college graduate. We have successfully raised three children into adulthood. (And by ‘successfully’ I mean they’re breathing and aren’t {currently} burdens on society.)

In some respects, it seems like just yesterday I was dropping each one off for their first day of preschool. Let me tell you, for a stay at home mom with three children born within 28 months, that was a pretty big deal. (Never mind the fact that by the time I dropped my oldest off, drove home, removed her siblings from their carseats, took off their jackets, boots, hats, and mittens, it was almost time to reverse the process.)


And then, faster than I ever imagined possible, over the course of three years, each one left for college.

Our oldest, Kristin, led the way. Very reluctantly might I add. In her defense, her college search was atypical of most. She was an athlete, and was recruited by several schools. Although she was determined to play volleyball at the collegiate level, she was not at all excited to respond to emails or make phone calls, or do anything to facilitate the process.

Regardless, by the winter of her junior year she was finalizing recruiting visits. Close to home was UW-Milwaukee, then a school in Missouri, followed by a whirlwind trip out east to visit three schools in New York.

When it was all said and done, she committed to Binghamton University in New York.

891.2 miles away.

I clearly remember the day we departed Neenah to bring her to school.

We left home at o’dark thirty in a steady rain. Six blue Rubbermaid bins were tightly strapped to the carrier rack on the back bumper. The Thule was attached to the roof. Both were stuffed to the brim with everything the ‘first child to be heading off to college’ would ever possibly need. All three kids sleepily piled into the back of the Explorer carrying blankets and pillows.

I drove the first leg of the journey. My husband rode shotgun.

Everybody fell back to sleep shortly after departure.

I remember the huge lump in my throat as I pulled out of the driveway.

I remember unsuccessfully fighting tears as I drove out of the neighborhood.

I remember telling myself I had better get my act together before daylight came and everyone woke up.

By the time we reached Milwaukee I had managed to do just that. But barely. (Milwaukee is 100 miles away.)

Two days later, I remember driving away from her dorm, sunglasses on (my signature move for hiding tears), trying hard to smile as I blew kisses and waved. I felt like my heart was being wrenched out of my chest.

Fortunately or unfortunately (I’m not quite sure), there was no time for long goodbyes.

Guess where we were headed?

Not home, that’s for sure.

We were on our way to visit schools for Hovie child #2, Logan. We had a tour scheduled at Hamilton College in upstate New York for later that afternoon.

Talk about adding salt to the wound.

Unlike his sister, Logan was eager to begin his college search. On his own, he had scheduled tours and meetings with admissions and coaches (his plan was to play basketball and high jump). Over the course of a week, we visited eight schools in four states. All were small liberal art schools, located, for the most part, in the middle of nowhere: Wooster, Kenyon, Denison, and Oberlin in Ohio, Grinnell in Iowa, and St. Olaf and Macalester (the one school he had visited previously) in Minnesota.

By the time we hit Grinnell, our youngest, Alli,  no longer ventured out of the vehicle. She had been ‘done’ after Ohio and would have rather stabbed her eyes with forks than be subjected to another campus tour.

On our way home, Logan decided Mac was the school for him. So, he applied early decision. And was accepted. (Thank goodness, as his back up plan wasn’t really much of a back up plan.)

So Labor Day weekend of 2012, we packed up the Camry (he didn’t have nearly as much stuff as his sister) and headed for St. Paul.

This time the distance was only 273.3 miles.

It was just Logan and I for this trip; Alli, had a high school volleyball tournament so she and my husband weren’t able to head over until later. Therefore, instead of being emotionally wrecked by the thought of another child leaving the nest, I was caught up in the logistics of traveling across the state, navigating through the Twin Cities, figuring out where his dorm was, finding a parking spot, unloading the car AND getting all of his stuff up to his room.

(Turns out I could have been sobbing instead of worrying. Macalester knows how to get students unloaded and into their dorms in short order.)

That evening, there was a ceremony for the incoming freshmen and their families. On a beautiful late summer evening, we gathered on the Great Lawn and the students marched in with their appointed ‘clans’. I still remember getting goosebumps and feeling overwhelmed with gratitude that Logan would be spending the next four years there.

And then there was Alli.

The third child.

I hate to admit it, but it’s a little foggy. Like her sister, Alli’s plan was to play volleyball at the collegiate level. Her first recruiting visit brought her to a school in Michigan. That summer she attended a camp for prospective players in North Carolina. And ironically enough, Binghamton, the school Kristin attended also extended an offer.

It came down to Adidas vs. Nike.

Nike won.

(Kidding, of course.)

Alli would be joining her sister at Binghamton.

Driving Alli to school must not have been nearly as traumatic for me. At least I am assuming it wasn’t, as I can’t remember much about it. She would be 900 miles away from home, but her big sister would be nearby. (Truth be told, I felt better that Alli would be there for Kristin than the other way around.)

The only recollection of dropping Alli off that I have, is being in her suite and meeting her teammates/roommates and their parents. That’s all I’ve got. Now this could have been because we were on our way to Lake Placid to do some hiking. Or it could have been that we were now officially empty nesters. Or it could have been a combination of the two. I’m really not sure.

Regardless, I am sure I was sad. It was the end of an era. Life at the Hovie house was about to get a whole lot quieter.

So this past weekend was most certainly a time of great celebration, but it was also a time for reflection.

Now there are a lot of things that don’t surprise me about who my children are today. Kristin has always been creative. Her paintings blow my mind and her writing touches my heart and mind.

But now, I am also in awe of her bravery and attitude toward life.

Logan has always been competitive and filled with confidence. He sets his goals high and is driven to succeed.

But now,  I am also amazed by his tolerance and level headedness.

And Alli has always been empathetic. She has always been there for those in need and often puts the happiness of others before her own.

But now,  I am also impressed by her newfound focus and ability to persevere.

I could not be more proud of the adults they have become.

Chapter closed.

Let the next chapter begin.


3 thoughts on “A Reflection Before Moving On

  1. Only another milestone. There’s a long, beautiful journey still ahead. But a beautiful reflection and a great idea to commemorate the moment. Congrats to you and your husband on bringing three healthy, talented, ever changing (and not burdens on society) kinds into the world.


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