As Halloween approached, my mother felt skittish. It wasn't easy having a daughter away at college, and she see-sawed between her confidence in me and her worries about what could happen:
I know this week-end is a big week-end at the college with all those keg parties etc--I'm glad Veronica that you don't indulge in that beer drinking--We were just reading recently about drinking at these colleges was terrible--doesn't take many beers to knock you out and make you act like an idiot--Be very careful always walking out at night on the campus--I know you + Vicky are very mature and sensible and I shouldn't even talk about it--
And this was true. Vicky and I were straight arrows. I had always dated guys who were older than me and had access to alcohol as a teen. The drinking age was 18 so many of us could drink legally while still in high school. When I went to college, beer was sold and allowed on campus, but I was never into drinking, not then and not now. Most of the time I skipped it altogether, but if I did drink, I always stopped at one. I appreciated that my mom's delivery of the college drinking warning was well timed and that she gave me a vote of confidence while acknowledging her concern.
As the semester wore on, my stress increased. I was putting an insane number of hours into deciphering calculus and worried as always about my grades and my scholarship. I must have communicated my anxiety to my mom. In early November, she sent me a letter that really made a difference:
Met Dave's mother the other day at the firehouse when we went to vote--Oh she kept talking about you--telling me what a beautiful name you had and that they loved you--
(Dave was a friend from high school and a neighbor. His mother had attended the Art Student League in New York. She was very warm and effusive, often telling me how much she'd love to paint me, though alas, she never did.)
Also met Mrs. Becht in the drugstore the same day and she told me what a beautiful girl you were and she asked where you were going to college etc. and talked about her girls also--she said the first semester is really hard and that she is sure all will work out well--We know Veronica that you are working + studying very hard and doing your very best and that's all we expect--so hang in there--I'm sure all will be okay.
I was so lucky to not only have my parents behind me but also the folks at home. Their words not only cheered me on but lifted my mom up too.
In early November, we were also making holiday plans. The Man, in the Army at the time and stationed in Alabama, would be joining my family for Thanksgiving. We had decided that I would catch a flight in Washington, D.C. and join him in Florida for Christmas where I would meet his family for the first time. This was a very big deal for me and also for my mom and dad.
As a mother myself, I can see why. In a short period of time, I'd gone from a life that revolved around my parents and family to a life that revolved around school and my boyfriend. I knew she was sad I wouldn't be home for Christmas but her letter focused on how nervous she was about me traveling alone. I had never flown before and neither had my parents.
Veronica I was just thinking of Christmas--maybe it would be better if you came home here and then you could fly to Alabama from Roanoke [a much smaller airport]--With Eric in the Army he has certain obligations and I wouldn't want to see you stranded somewhere--No matter what arrangements are made be sure he'll be able to meet you--also have phone numbers where he is stationed in case you have to call him and I'm sure you must have his mother's no. in Florida--I would like to have her number too--I know Veronica--you must be thinking--there's mom again--worrying--but someday you'll understand--we love you and don't want you to be hurt in any way--We trust you and know that you can take care of yourself--always be careful--
This was an era before cell phones or e-mail. If you were away from home and needed to make a phone call, you had to find a pay phone and have change to put into it to make a call. We didn't even have phone cards then, and needless to say, I didn't have a credit card, only a checkbook and very limited funds. ATMs had not been invented yet. The fear of me being stranded somewhere wasn't without merit. A little more than a year later, I would get stranded in an airport with only 12 cents in my pocket, but that's a story for another day...
(This post is part of a series and larger project. Read about it here.)