Thursday, September 22, 2011

Drop off day

With Andres, Ceca and Jill
Right there at the Whitman College was the reception committee, all set up to welcome the 110 or so international students, converging onto Princeton’s class of 2015.

Our cabbie seemed to know. He drove us around, onto and right through the welcome banner. There was a decent amount of baggage to be offloaded and we got off, in plenty of company. Laden cars and suitcase wheelies glided all around us. While I waited with the bags, watching the cheerful occupants disembark, Asawari zipped across to the welcome area for registration and check in instructions. It was a lovely, sunny green day. There was a washed feel to that moment, a kind of laundered, crisp, fresh feel, buoyant and squeaky at the same time. I skimmed the clumps of young people, languid in their cartage of boxes and such like.

Asawari was trotting back, two at a time, as is her wont. A golf cart followed, making its merry whirr towards where I stood. Before I knew it, the bags had been loaded onto the cart tray with helpful suggestions from the luggage owner on alignment and she had clambered on to the passenger seat, laptop and rucksack in lap. One determined burst of the motor and the student driver was off with my College Freshman, bound for her residence at Buyers Hall, Rockefeller College.

The mind plays tricks. I stood there, golf cart sound fading, in the throes of a filmy flashback. Recall one, the scrolling down of Princeton’s orange head acceptance letter on our home computer monitor. Recall two, her departure for the Bridge Year Program. Recall three, the family debate over whether I should accompany her to College drop off. And here we were, on the 31st Aug, off to the long awaited start. 

Half an hour later, I was following her in another golf cart driven by Rachel Baldwin, Princeton’s International Student Advisor! We made our cheerful way across campus, chatting and exclaiming and soon enough, I was inside Asawari’s newly assigned residential unit.

Introduction to the roommate followed; there was a guided tour around the college and some shopping for essentials. I could have stayed on endlessly but there was this new and pre-occupied look on the Freshman’s face, with lots to do and a packed schedule of orientation events to keep pace with. She gamely walked me to the New York Camera Store on Nassau Street for a battery check and while we waited for the cab to take me back to the hotel, we counted minutes. Much against the heart, I pushed her in the direction of the campus, the cab was taking time and she had a deadline creeping up. I watched her retreating back, the short pause at the traffic light and her sprightly, determined stride beyond.

I was going to visit again the following day for the international parents’ orientation but really, this was the actual drop off day. I rode back alone, pouring my heart out to a strange man at the wheel, a continent away from home. As I alighted, he said, “Don’t worry, she will be the smarter and wiser for your having left her here!!”

Amen, I whispered to myself.

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