Touching Home Base

The phone rings at 12:35 am last night (okay, technically early this morning). The hubby has long since gone to bed but being the insomniac/bibliophile I am, I am still up, engrossed in A. M. Holmes's latest book, “The Mistress’s Daughter,” a memoir about her experience in getting to know her biological parents (I literally can not put it down). It’s not unheard of for the phone to ring at this late hour around here; my husband does get emergency calls in his line of work, but the ring is shrill and jarring nonetheless.

“Wow, we haven’t heard from our Freshman recently. I guess he hasn't run out of money,” my husband had remarked earlier in the evening. “Shh, don’t even go there,” I say. (I’m the superstitious parent.)

Sure enough, it was him. And because the modus operandi in our family is “No news is good news,” our son rarely calls home. So when he does, my greeting is invariably some version of “Oh my God, are you okay? What’s wrong?” Nothing and everything was wrong. Turns out my son was just fine, though shaken; he had just come back from a candlelight vigil. “You heard about the terrible things that happened this morning?” he asked. “It’s been awhile since we talked so I just wanted to touch base with you guys.”

Like all people everywhere, with kids or not, I am still reeling from the unbearable tragedy that unfolded yesterday on a seemingly bucolic campus in Virginia. But as the mother of a first-year college student ensconced on a similar picture postcard campus, I am fixated on what these students’ parents must be going through. You pack up your child for this next step in the journey of becoming an independent young man or woman. You make sure he has the right jacket (warm enough but not dorky-looking), alarm clock (loud enough but with all the latest cool features), and desk lamp (bright enough but not likely to burn the dorm down), and then you worry about whether he’ll actually use them. You worry about whether he’ll be able to balance writing papers with partying. You worry about whether he’ll make the right decisions. But what you don’t think to worry about is his being gunned down by a fellow student.

My heart goes out to the victims, their families, and their friends, but especially to the parents. I know they’d do anything to receive a late night call from their children – even one just asking for a little extra cash.

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