A trip to Target these days just isn’t complete without purchasing something for Mallory to take to college. Something for her to take to college in ELEVEN days.
It should have been 17 days, but she has decided to be in the marching band, so she’s leaving six days earlier than I anticipated. That was harder for me to take than it should have been.
There is a growing pile of dorm room supplies in my laundry and sewing room. A plastic three-drawer nightstand. Under the bed boxes. Bowls and plates. Sheets. A lamp.
Mixed in are a few surprises. My daddy would approve. He liked to slip in what he would call “happies” when you weren’t paying attention. He would also approve of her choice of schools.
About 20 years ago, my daddy came out to the garage to see a sticker on the back of his car that read, “Salem College.” He looked at it, looked at me, and I grinned. He said, “I guess that’s where you’ve decided to go?”
It was a weird decision for me. I hadn’t looked at any women’s colleges. I assumed I would go to Mississippi State, join a sorority, and become a special education teacher. Then, my senior year, everything changed, and I wanted to get the hell out of dodge. I just didn’t realize that getting the hell out of dodge would be so far away from home.
I wasn’t very bright. Or emotionally mature. And I had spent my senior year being manipulated and abused by a teacher I had trusted and respected. I was kind of a mess.
Salem should have been the perfect fit for me. It would have been if I hadn’t been such a train wreck when I got there. I was scared and stubborn – traits I didn’t let go of until my 30’s – and I didn’t know what to do with the diversity that hit me when I moved out of my tiny Northeast Jackson, Mississippi bubble. I did the whole thing wrong.
Mallory going to Salem almost feels like a do over. Like I get to watch her reap the benefits that I threw away 18 years ago. Small class size. Tight knit community. Women getting the chance to lead and find their voices. Open minded. Quality education. Powerful alumni association. Beautiful campus. Rich traditions.
I cringe when I think of how stupid I was when I was a Salem student. It pains me to think of how I clung to the crusts of religion because I was so uncomfortable meeting people so different than myself. It’s embarrassing to remember what a damn know-it-all I was and how I threw away the opportunity to learn from a phenomenal piano professor. I regret leaving there before graduating. I regret having my head in my ass.
It feels good to have finally admitted all of that.
Salem is no longer about me though. Now it gets to be Mallory’s. The story becomes hers and hers alone. I will get to visit and create new memories with her – ones that won’t make me cringe with my own stupidity. Salem becomes Mallory’s home now, and I’m so excited for her.
Daddy would be too. And proud. He would be so incredibly proud of her. I know I am.