When I went off to college a million years ago, I wore out an Amy Grant tape on the four-hour drive up the mountain. I had a retreat to attend prior to moving onto campus, and so I went up by myself. The Amy Grant tape was old even then, salvaged from the floor-board chaos of my older sister's Volkswagon Rabbit. Lead me on, lead me on. Four hours in a car by myself, the same songs over and over again. I didn't listen to them so much as pray them. I watched the landscape around me change and I prayed those mid-eighties Amy Grant songs. Age to age, You're still the same, by the power of your name.
I was terrified.
My parents arrived the following Sunday, freshman-move-in day. Rainy, of course. I wanted them to see that I was okay, so I introduced them to some of the girls I'd met at the retreat (Look! I already have friends!) and tried to give them the bum's rush once they'd fed me and hauled all my junk up to my room. I needed them to leave. I was prayed-up and ready. It was now or never. Mom and Dad, thank you very much for raising me and buying me a new plastic broom for my new dorm room. For supplying me with everything I've needed and most of what I've wanted these past eighteen years. Thank you for lunch at Grandma's Pancake Barn. Thank you for putting up with cranky-baby-me, a terrible spitter-upper, four-year-old me, a terrible know-it-all, thirteen-year-old me, terrible all the way around...the only way to get to eighteen-year-old college-me standing before you today. In this cramped, hot dorm room on this muggy gray August afternoon.
But, I need you to leave now. Now.
My mother, however, insisted on making my bed for me before she left.
And, I do mean insisted, despite my begging her to go. I clenched my teeth. She laid out the foam egg-carton cushiony-thingy meant to supplement the standard-issue dorm-room quality mattress. She snapped open the sheets, smoothed them down, tucked everything in, and then left.
Here's what I'm saying: in life and literature, we're hardly ever fighting about what we're fighting about. We're praying our way through Amy Grant songs and making our college daughter's bed once last time. We are always, always negotiating our relationships, always always going through these different rituals, resisting them and welcoming them and moving beyond them, towards new rituals. We never fight, really fight, with another person, an outside force, without confronting some part of ourselves, without coming to terms something we know to be true about the human being we are, or the human being we're becoming.
We are always dealing with the Big Things, but we never call them that. We call them egg-carton cushiony thingees. We call them rainy days, long drives, getting ready for freshman orientation.