Enjoy the Ride

Edison School library

It was about a week ago that a friend of mine began writing a blog for Chicago Now. The blog is entitled, “In Michele’s Mind” and I have to say that her first blog was very well done and also very well received! Her blog described the transition of her daughter moving from childhood to the college years and the many changes that occur during that time. Along those lines, I was hit in the face (not literally) last night that made me wonder where the time goes.

A Facebook page that I subscribe to, entitled "Planet Hammond", often posts photographs from local landmarks in Hammond, Indiana from days gone by. Last night I just happened to be scrolling through my newsfeed when up popped a photo of my childhood elementary / middle school library. What hit me in the face was the photo was one that I had taken over twenty years ago, just prior to the old school being demolished.

The picture also included my oldest daughter, Jenny, my two nephews as well as my mom. I have absolutely no idea how the photo ended up on that Facebook page, not that it matters all that much. I know I’ve shared my photo album with a few former classmates and perhaps one of them scanned the photo and submitted it to the site. Maybe I should be more careful with whom I share my photos!! Oh stop…let’s don’t go there!!

The site of Jenny, who at the time was about five years old, really jolted me. It took me back to that summer when the photo was taken and what was taking place at that time. It was around that time that I was teaching Jenny to ride a two-wheeler without the training wheels. As the oldest child (and for five years the only child), Jenny was perhaps a bit more attached than my youngest daughter, Molly. When Molly hopped a two-wheeler for the first time, she sped off and never looked back! Jenny, on the other hand, suffered from a bit of separation anxiety. Instead of keeping her eyes forward, she had a tendency to continually turn around to see if I was actually still behind her. I think Jenny still has a few visible scars as a result of taking her eyes off the road!

Although I begged and pleaded with that little rascal to not turn around and to keep her eyes looking ahead, she’d continue to glance behind for a little reassuring look. Jenny finally got the hang of things and went on to many successful years of bicycling!!

Fast forward to the autumn of 2005 and it was time to take Jenny to Champaign, IL and drop her off for a few years at the University of Illinois. I had often heard how difficult it would be to drop a child, particularly the oldest, off at college, so I prepped myself accordingly. I was bound and determined to move Jenny into her dorm room and not show one bit of emotion, so as to not make her feel guilty about leaving home (not to mention spending all of my money!).

Well, I’m proud to say that I held up just fine throughout the move. I didn’t let on one bit that I was basically a falling apart wreck on the inside. A stiff upper lip is what I showed! I maintained my composure up until the time we were to part company on that particular early fall day. As we walked to my car to say our good-byes, Jenny took her bike from the rack and intended to ride over to the student union to pick up a few items of paperwork.

We said goodbye and off she rode. It was at that moment that my mind flashed back to that day in the church parking lot when I was teaching Jenny to ride for the first time and she kept turning around to see if I was there. As she rode off toward the student union, I recall wondering to myself if she might turn around this time too. True to form, she turned, glanced, smiled and gave just quick little wave goodbye. Needless to say, I went back to my car and sobbed like a toddler who just dropped his Tootsie- Pop in the dirt!

Fortunately for me, youngest daughter, Molly, elected to stay closer to home to attend college, or I might have chased her down under similar conditions and just dragged her back home!

Nearly a decade has passed already since that goodbye glance at the U of I. Jenny is now a working woman with a good job in the big city. Molly attends college with plans to teach elementary school and will soon be off the Tomfoolery payroll (I hope). Time goes by too darn quickly. This past Christmas, my daughters bought me a unique present. It’s a hanging picture of a bicycle and under the bike the words say, “Enjoy the Ride.”

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