From One Life to Another


I started prepping the Iowan early. “We’ll hug him, then walk away.”

Mr. Boudreaux’s dad had cried at the end of his high school graduation, I mean really cried. This was after the Iowan spent parts of the evening trying to get me to leave early. “You can’t be interested in hearing all of this,” he said.

Then, the 90 seniors climbed the stage steps for last pictures. Our only child Mr. B. was bunched in back with his boy pack, arms thrown over shoulders. It was beautiful and wrenching. While taking photos, I noticed his dad’s tears. “This is the very last time they will ever do this. It just hit me.”

The Iowan was losing it. He is tall and hard to miss. Internal mother alarms shrieked: Warning, teenager humiliation. I took the Iowan’s hand and joined the slow line to the exit. For the last time, we read Mr. B.’s senior quote, painted on the wall just outside the gym. “When things get too heavy, just call me helium, the lightest known gas to man.” Jimi Hendrix.

Then, too fast, it was college move-in day. We got up at O-dark-30 and headed south. Several hours later, we were moving Mr. B. into the dorm. The roommates put clothes away while parents sweated and wrestled gear. The helpful RA from North Carolina kept referring to me as “Miss Alabama.” A graduate student dropped by to check laptop connections. He told us the weather was terrible during his first move-in day and his parents got into a huge fight so he couldn’t wait for them to leave.

When we couldn’t think of anything else to do, we took the boys to dinner. Then we dropped them off, back at the dorm.

It was time. I hugged Mr. B. tight and whispered, “Fly high, free bird,” my version of a goodbye joke. Dad and son hugged, shook hands and exchanged I love you’s. The Iowan and I turned and retreated, crisply. We were holding it together. All business.

A few heartbeats later, I looked back. Mr. B. had turned around and was watching us walk away, a little smile on his face. His eyes were shiny with tears.

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About Carole Corlew

I am a freelance writer and editor. I spent years in the news business, primarily as an editor. I started out in newspapers, but soon found the "wires" more suitable for the restless soul. Despite that, I've now lived in the Washington, D.C. area for 30 years, in D.C., Baltimore and now Virginia. When we moved to Virginia, just a few miles from the capital, my Iowa-born husband quipped that I had insisted on that location so I could be "a few steps closer to her beloved deep south." We have a teenage son.

13 thoughts on “From One Life to Another

  1. Erica Braverman

    Aw Carole, I’m all teary. I still remember when my mom took me to my first day of Kindergarden. She was the one who took me to my first semester of college, and I cried hard when she left.
    Glad to see you here round these parts. You’ve been missed.

  2. Carole Corlew Post author

    I remember those days, too, Erica. And I did the same thing at college. Mr. B. and another little boy sobbed loudly in the arms of their first preschool teacher at dropoff for weeks. The teacher said they kept it up the exact time it took their parents to exit the school door. Synchronized drama!

  3. rick neece

    Cece, you busted my heart with this story. I’m so glad you’re still hanging out here. It has been so quiet, it was hard to tell.

  4. Daryl Scroggins

    Oh Cece, this is lovely. You always know just how to get the largest things on the page. For instance, I love the word “crisply” in your next to last paragraph. I hope always that your garden is growing well.

  5. Carole Corlew

    Thank you, all. Michael, I don’t like being in the halls of a mostly male dorm with a big communal bathroom so experiencing the joys of that room will have to wait until move-out day. And Rick, I’ve been wandering the desert but am glad it did not take 40 years to find my way back. Daryl, you do the same. My garden should grow nicely if we ever warm up here. I have exactly three daffodils blooming and one clump of Lenten rose. I am eager for a warm spell.

  6. Sheila Ryan

    You see what happens when I am away for three or four days? The world reconstitutes itself.

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