I was standing on the curb, leaning on the hand truck that had only recently held most of my son's worldly possessions. As I watched the stream of loaded down SUVs creep down the street in front of me, searching for a spot to disgorge their kids' belongings, I took a moment to wipe the sweat from my brow. I recognized many of the boxes by size and shape: printer, fan, shelving unit. Necessities. Things that would fit in a dorm room. The bicycle racks behind me were filling up with Schwinns and Treks and beaters that had seen better days. Still, expectant faces rolled their bikes up in hopes of finding one more spot for their two wheels. I was catching my breath after pushing two loads of clothes and TV and computer and cables up the hill from the lower parking lot. My wife and I had given up hope of finding a spot any closer when a silver pickup swooped in and took up what would have been, on most any other day, two parking places. Ultimately, it didn't matter, since there were plenty of barges to be toted and bales to be lifted.
I was working hard to try and limit the amount of thinking I could do. When I stopped to reflect on the job I was doing, it didn't make a lot of sense to me: I was taking an active role in moving my son out of my house and down to the road to the college of his choice. I knew this day was coming, but somehow I had kept myself from fully confronting the reality of those words that I had been hearing for weeks: Empty Nest. I remembered a time, many years ago, when my then third grade son said he was interested in going to college up in Berkeley, so he could still sleep at home. That was a long time ago. At least one long, hot day of moving boxes ago. A day that had my wife and I alternating moments of sadness with moments of joy. We were proud. And excited. And afraid. We could only imagine what sort of emotions were tumbling through my son's heart and mind. Was he as excited about his future as his parents? Was he feeling any fear? If he did, he didn't show it. Maybe he was taking pity on his parents and trying to make us more comfortable with the future we were shaping for ourselves. Then my reverie was broken.
"Hey dad!" I looked up to see a gentleman I did not recognize coming toward me. He was carrying a box. Like everyone else. Then I realized that, not only was it pretty easy to assume my role in the dance performance that was taking place with my hand truck and fatigue, but because of the sweaty T-shirt I was wearing that labeled me as a proud "Cal Poly Dad." I smiled and tipped my cap to my new friend, "Hey, dad." He nodded and moved on up the stairs, helping his son or daughter prepare to make the next big step in their lives together.
It was nice to have the company.