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Publication Date: Friday, September 06, 2002

Leaving for college Leaving for college (September 06, 2002)

It's exciting, but saying goodbye can be tough - for students and parents

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

A white rented van stood in the driveway on Smallwood Court last week, with a burgundy suitcase, a bicycle and an overflowing Abercrombie and Fitch bag waiting to be loaded. Piled on the seats were more bags of clothes and a beanbag chair.

Inside the house, the dining room table was stacked with lamps, bedding, clothes and toiletries, and a television and VCR rested on the floor.

The kitchen island held a new computer, printer and supplies, and boxes of food.

Abby Martin was packing to leave for college, one of the class of 2002 making their departures these days.

"I'm so excited, but I'm getting really nervous," said Abby, who is going to San Diego State University. "I started packing up my room yesterday and it hit me - I'm really leaving."

Abby doesn't know anyone else going to SDSU and said that she started to get excited after talking on the phone to her dorm roommate, who is from Napa. But she and her mother Sue Martin describe themselves as best friends, so this is an emotional time for both of them.

"It usually goes back and forth. One of us gets sad and the other one says, 'Let's enjoy these last days,'" Abby said. "Then yesterday we went out to lunch and we both started crying."

She's had a busy summer since graduating from Amador Valley High in June, spending time with friends who are going off in all directions. Her boyfriend Matt Macniak headed for Army Reserve Basic Training a few weeks ago and then will attend the University of Utah. Since his departure, Abby has had more time to make preparations with her mom - and get sentimental.

"I think, 'Everyone goes through with it - why am I freaking out?'" said Abby. "It goes in phases. Today was hectic - getting a haircut and picking up the van."

Despite their sadness, both agreed it's what they want.

"I considered UC Santa Cruz because it's closer," said Abby. "But I thought, if you're going to go away it is better to really go away."

"It's one of my biggest regrets that I didn't go away to college," said Sue, who went to San Jose State in her hometown. "Everyone has to have that experience."

Her dad Fred is feeling sad, too, Abby said.

"He came in yesterday and showed me all his box of high school and college stuff," she said.

Her older brother, Robbie, 21, left home about two years ago, although at first he stayed in Pleasanton. Now he lives in Berkeley and attends Expression Center for New Media in Emeryville.

"But when he first moved out he was still around a lot," said Sue. "Now when he comes over, he's like a celebrity."

Abby was also concerned about using a community bathroom, and about a 7 a.m. class she has three mornings a week. "And everyone says that for each class, there is three times as much study time as class time," she said. She is starting off with an undeclared major and wants to spend her second year abroad, in Spain.

Jonathan Michaels, a Foothill graduate, chose UC Berkeley to major in computer science and moved into the dorms three weeks ago. "I wanted a big school so that there would be many people to share interests of mine," he said. "Another (attraction) was the cultural environment in Berkeley."

"I wouldn't mind being farther away but I don't mind being close either," he said. "I don't feel I'm being watched over by my parents but I can go back if I forgot something - or for good food."

He said he knows his folks miss him, although he isn't far. "The last couple of days before I left, my mom made a big deal over little things," he related. "Like she said, 'This is the last time I'll be making your breakfast.'"

"A lot of my friends are here at Berkeley, so it's not like I'm leaving my friends," he added. Plus his girlfriend is there, in her second year.

Two of his friends from Foothill, Steven Frenda and Shannon Bolt, are attending New School University in Manhattan. They should do well in New York - they were both voted most opinionated, Jonathan noted.

"I am not at all homesick, as I much prefer urban environments as opposed to the suburbs," Steven e-mailed after two weeks in Manhattan. "But I miss my family somewhat."

Jan Moberg, a marriage and family counselor in Pleasanton, said that the biggest adjustment for the students is facing all the new freedom. "That amount of freedom can get a little heady," she said. "They can get unbalanced with study and partying. They want balance in their lives."

She said it can be overwhelming for some to make the adjustment. "They may call home more often and that's good," she said. "The parents' job then is to listen to what it feels like - to be loving but not to fix things for them."

"People don't very often need advice as much as they need someone to listen to what they're going through," she explained. "If you have that, you have a treasure of a parent."

She also said that when a mother and daughter are close, it is normal for the mother to go through the grieving stages and be depressed when her daughter leaves.

"If a mom and daughter have been really close, it's definitely a loss," Moberg said. "Mom will feel the void - there will be sadness and a mixture of emotions she may not be prepared for. When you're in the grieving process, let them know you miss them. But you should know it's a normal thing to go through. Continue to let go of them."

She also noted that a mother and father should not think the void means theirs is a bad marriage. "It isn't the spouse that's the problem," she said. "You should develop things to do. When my youngest, now 32, left home, my husband and I went on a bike trip to Europe."

In the Martin house last week, Abby was getting more excited and her mother was becoming sadder.

Munching on grapes, Abby said she has started to eat healthier to avoid gaining the notorious "freshman 15." "I'll miss Gimanelli's sandwiches," she said wistfully. "I hope I find a deli."

Sue said that she will enjoy the freedom from worry that would come at night when she was waiting for Abby to come home. The rule was she always checked in by midnight.

But there are more things that Sue will miss.

"I'll miss her because we are very good friends, especially this year. We do a lot of things together and she likes me, she really likes me," Sue said. "Yes, the house will be empty and her friends won't come over - but it's her closeness and friendship that will be sorely missed."

"I know that this is like the beginning of the end - nothing will ever be the same again and my job is pretty much over. The nest is truly empty," said Sue, after the van was finally loaded. "Sure she will come for the holidays and such, but she is a free and independent agent. She has actually moved away from home!"

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