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Marlow Goes Off To College

Marlow moved into her dormitory room --Hartley 8B9, on the campus of Columbia University in The City of New York (she is a first-year student at Columbia College) on Thursday, August 29, 1999. I helped her move.

If you're a weather junkie, or live in the East, you'll recognize that date as the day of the rush-hour monsoon in Manhattan. Two inches of rain fell between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m., shutting down the entire subway system as well as all Metro North commuter trains. Cabs vanished as they always do when it rains in New York. The 15-minute ride from the Empire Hotel at 63rd and Broadway (across from Lincoln Center) to the U-Haul facility at 11th and 23rd took two hours. The West Side Highway and FDR were closed; 12th and 11th were flooded in several places. Amazingly, none of this made the papers in the West in any way that people noticed.

Eventually, however, we loaded up her suitcases and boxes, cruised onto College Walk (illegally, but no one stopped us) and moved everything into her room. It fit!

Then we bought Marlow a 16-inch oscillating fan (no air conditioning!) and some thumbtacks. Finally, we grabbed waterproof pants (she'd forgotten hers) for her hiking camping trip (she's still in the wilderness as I write these words). I had planned a rather sentimental goodbye. Or at least one where we were both standing up, face to face.

Instead, a Columbia cop waved us away from our attempted wrong-way entrance onto College Walk from the Amsterdam Avenue side. So, Marlow leaned across the wide gap between the two captain's chairs in the front of a U-Haul van, gave me a quick peck on the cheek, and lept out so she could attend a 4 p.m. orientation meeting for campers. I delivered her fan--except the suite door was locked, so I had to leave it in the hall. I hope she--and not someone else--actually got it. I'll find out when she gets back and gets her phone turned on.

I won't see her again until Family Weekend on Oct. 8, and then not after that until Christmas. This is what it is like to become a bit player in the life of your oldest child.

As my mother always said when we were kids, your goal in raising children is to raise them strong and wise and self-confident so they can go out in the world on their own. And yet, when you succeed, it hurts like a son-of-a-bitch.


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