Driving through the streets of South Philly, my heart is pounding with excitement and dread. The buildings are searching the sky to be noticed among the hovering clouds and thin line of smog. The car is packed to maximum capacity. More than a pay checks worth of Pop Tarts, shower gel and printer ink, obscure the tops of boxes and bags near the rear hatch. If the door was to open here on Broad Street, Oodles of Noodles and a large tub of Gold Fish would smash to the ground, trailing behind us a yellow brick road. Home has never felt so far away. As my daughter sets off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of college.
I imagine my Dorothy, standing in her mismatched pajamas before the Great and Powerful Oz. (Who is in fact the Dean) “AND WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE LITTLE GIRL?” His voice is loud and deep and she shutters a little. “I would like a degree in something, please?” She is 18 years old and holds before him a huge sack of cash, around $19,000. She walks to him, shaking and scared. She hands him the bag and steps politely back into place. He smiles, like the Grinch and points to a door and says, “GO! Find yourself! Come back in a few months with more cash and in four years I will give you a degree, in something.” Then “POOF”! She is in a little, blue checkered dress and ruby shoes. She goes skipping off into the Emerald City. Never looking back, never thinking even once… “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.”
At 1:30 a.m. my phone vibrates on the dresser beside my bed. I hear it, but it doesn’t register. Then in an instant, anxiety and fear wake me up. “Hey,” my voice is groggy. I know it is Dorothy; caller ID. I hear muffled sobs and sniffles and I can tell she is crying. I snap WIDE awake, “Are you O.K?” That question snaps my husband WIDE awake, “What’s wrong?” His voice alarmed. “I’m scared. I don’t know if I can do this?” Panic and worry cross the miles between us and I want nothing more than for her to be in her bedroom, just across the hall, so I can hug her. My little girl is in the big, creepy city, alone. My heart just wants to go back in time, about 15 years, to when she would crawl in my bed scared of the dark. Although I am just as afraid as she is, I pretend everything fine. It takes some coaxing but soon she calms down and feels better. I tell her she can do it. This is so exciting! She will make many friends. On her new path she will find classmates like the Tin Man; who are kind and the lion; who are nervous. But most of all, she will discover other Scarecrows’ like herself. The bright students, with big brain, that are driven to succeed. We whisper on the phone for a long time in the darkness. Dad falls back to sleep and we are all close together in heart and mind. When we hang up she sounds more relaxed. I however, lie awake knowing while she is away, I will never really sleep soundly again. How can I ever let her go, she still needs me so much? How do I live without a person I have seen and cared for every day, for the past 18 years?
I began by staying busy. I volunteered for everything. Though I thought of her constantly and worried day and night, staying occupied was an outstanding distraction.
I did random acts of kindness. Everyone recognizes helping others and doing kind deeds makes you feel good. So I gave blood. I baked her cookies and sent some to her boyfriend and also to a friends’ son, stationed in the military.
I joined the Sunshine Club at work. They make the work place fun and enjoyable.
I found a women’s club and set off to go to meetings once a month.
I went to my religious group and prayed for peace in the world. We also did charity drives and events for the community.
I started loving and taking better care of my pets. I spent more time with my parents. I invited them to dinner once a month and called them every day.
I went to the library and got books on things I always wanted to learn about, such as Mount Everest and cooking with Tofu.
I began to perceive my future differently. Instead of existing tied up in the role of Mom, with football games, car-pooling and proms, I focused on life outside of being Mom. More centered on living as a woman and finding balance between family and the world around me.
Six months following everyone has adjusted beautifully to Dorothy’s new life. We Face-Time often and it is the perfect fix when I really miss her. When she does come home it’s a tornado of happiness and laundry. She shares accounts of her accomplishments and letdowns, at the Emerald City. I listen in awe, as the pint-sized girl, who handed over the big bag of money, is now a fearless young woman. She has unearthed her way, changed her major and formed many friendships.
Next year she is even moving off campus! Naturally, when I first heard this it felt like someone dropped a house on me. But Dorothy, with the Tin Man (Crystal) the Lion (Nilam) and the Scarecrow, (Megan) took my hand, walked me down Broad Street, and showed me it would be fine. They found a new place to call home-sweet-home, just over the rainbow.
| Carolyn was features editor for her college paper and has a journalism degree. She is a full-time school bus driver. Being on the bus allows her witness kindness in the hearts of children, everyday. |
Writing is her hobby, along with yoga, Reiki Healing and health & wellness of the body & mind.
Carolyn thinks life is for learning and loving - all you possibly can.