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A Very Personal Back to School Story

This is a very personal back to school story that ushers in a new season of life for our family. This story is different from all the back to school stories that have played out in our house over the years.

As mid August has rolled around year after year, the back to school activities have been familiar enough….they’ve evolved from walking our son and daughter to the bus stop for their first day of kindergarten to “walking the schedule” the Sunday before high school started to meet their teachers.

Ashley, right, with roommate Catie in front of dorm window

But this time was different. Early on this crisp August Friday morning, we pulled out of our drive way with a truck and carload of clothing, appliances, bedding and furniture to take our youngest child, Ashley, off to start college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

How could the time have passed so quickly from chaperoning her third grade field trip to her fifth grade graduation to her eighth grade formal to her senior prom? When I came to work at Hooker Furniture 11 years ago, she was only in the 2nd grade.

I knew that when I returned home on this Friday evening long after the sun had set, that the season of rearing children under our roof would have passed. “Home” would be different forever, as both our children are now in the various early stages of creating a home for themselves independently.

Our home will now be a haven they “come back to” for a few days, weeks or months, but don’t put down roots.

After over 20 years of pouring energy and love into creating a home for our son and daughter,  today we would get to see what Ashley had learned about nesting and home-making.

After arriving at her dorm and taking the first load up the elevator to the 7th floor and unlocking the door to her room, I could see this would be no small test for her – and us. With 2 desks, 2 beds, 2 dressers and 2 wardrobes stacked in the middle of the concrete-walled room, it looked like a chaotic cross between a large closet and a military barracks.

But I had to admire her attitude.  “We’ll make it work!” she said with a smile.

As the day passed, the sterile environment brightened with the cheerful color scheme of aqua, purple and black & white that Ashley and her roommate Catie had chosen. Beds were made and accent pillows were placed. A futon, entertainment center and storage shelf were assembled. Photographs and bulletin boards were hung. Soft, sheer purple curtains went up at the window (which, by the way, has a great view of Carolina’s basketball arena, affectionately known as the ‘Dean Dome’ in honor of legendary former coach Dean Smith.)

Ashley, right, & roomie Catie chill on the Futon

Exhausted at the end of the day, my husband and I collapsed on the futon and put our feet up on the aqua storage ottoman and nestled against the oversized throw pillows. “This is great! It’s so cozy I’d like to stay here tonight,” he said as he flipped the TV remote and got comfortable.  And that’s when the feeling of satisfaction enveloped me.

Yes, it would be hard to go back home without the vibrant presence of our precious daughter in our daily lives.

But now she was learning to make her own way and, most importantly, her own home.

{ 20 comments… add one }

  • Darnell Bullins August 23, 2011, 12:11 am

    I know this is going to be quite an adjustment for you and Chan. I definitely can relate. You’ll soon come to know there is nothing like being a Tar Heel (sorry, Paul, Mountaineers are o.k. but. . .) You should be very proud of your children. It’s so exciting to see them as they prepare to be the wonderful contributing adults they will become.

    • Kim Shaver August 26, 2011, 12:31 pm

      You are so right, being a Tarheel is a great solace for the empty nest!

  • Lisa NIxon August 23, 2011, 2:18 am

    Kim, I loved what you wrote about the transition to college. Catie has been my daughter’s best friend since they were babies in daycare. I feel like Catie is my other daughter and I really miss her. I know she will be fine at UNC and I am so happy that she has Ashley as her roommate; it sounds like they have a lot in common.

    • Kim Shaver August 26, 2011, 12:35 pm

      It is wonderful to hear from you. We have really enjoyed getting to know Catie, and we are just as happy that Ashley is rooming with her. I think they’ll really be good for each other. Take care! Hope to meet you sometime

  • Michael Parker August 23, 2011, 2:42 am

    This is a great story. I know how proud you must be to have witnessed that. You have done a good job. Carol and I will have that experience in a few years, I hope we can handle it with as much grace as you.

    • Kim Shaver August 26, 2011, 12:47 pm

      Michael, thanks for your kind reply! You and Carol enjoy every minute that your boys are at home!

  • Betty Morris August 23, 2011, 2:53 am

    What a beautiful article. Empty-Nester’s now, huh!?

    • Kim Shaver August 26, 2011, 12:48 pm

      Yes indeed…empty nesters…so far so good. Good to hear from you Betty

  • Jo reynolds August 23, 2011, 12:52 pm

    This is a beautiful tribute to parenting. It reminds me so much of when we took Kasey to Alabama.

    As unprepared as we are for the “empty nest” there is another chapter in life starting for both parents and children. It is a challenging chapter, but with God’s blessings we all make it. Jo

    • Kim Shaver August 26, 2011, 12:50 pm

      Jo, what a great perspective to embrace this as a new season of life with its own unique blessings!

  • HuesandCues August 23, 2011, 3:28 pm

    Sweet. It is a life passage when your kids go off to college. Feels so different. Takes time to het used to. Good job.

  • JANE BEESON August 24, 2011, 1:54 pm


    • Kim Shaver August 26, 2011, 12:53 pm

      Hi Catie’s Mee Maw! I know you are proud of your wonderful grandaughter and we are so glad she is Ashley’s roomie. Hope to meet you sometime!

  • Marcie Causey August 25, 2011, 9:02 pm

    I know how proud you are of Ashley!! You have done a wonderful job preparing her for this moment. When my youngest went to college someone gave me a letter that they had written to their daughter. It basically reminded me to be thankful and happy that my child was doing exactly what we had prepared for her to do. You will miss her but you will all thrive in your new circumstances.

  • Kim Shaver August 26, 2011, 12:55 pm

    Marcie, you are so right. That is what we want them to do, is thrive. Thanks for your wisdom.

  • Hank Long August 26, 2011, 8:08 pm

    A really great story. A lot has changed since I took this journey with my parents 40 something years ago, or when I took Bart to William and Mary 7 years ago.
    It’s funny, but I don’t remember college rooms looking this neat or clean. But I only got to see boys rooms.
    I wish Ashley the best in her college years. I know she will make you and Chan proud.

    • kshaver August 31, 2011, 12:41 am

      Hank, you are so right about how things have changed. One of the Deans at Carolina told us that when his brother and father dropped him off at Carolina many years ago, they dropped him at the curb with his suitcases. He expected a moving speech and embrace from his father but instead his father simply shook his hand and said, “Son, don’t embarrass your mother!” Darned good advice. Thanks for the kind wishes.

  • Hessie Williams August 31, 2011, 1:38 am

    You are an excellent writer, and this may be the best article you have ever written. I could sense the depth of your feeling, and it made me think of talking our daughter to college nineteen years ago. I’m afraid I did not handle the move as well as you.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about Ashley, changes, and a new passage in your lives You have prepared Ashley well, and she will be fine. (Mom and Dad will, also). Being a Tar Heel will be very exciting

    • Kim Shaver September 6, 2011, 1:38 pm

      Thanks so much for the kind and encouraging words…they truly made my day! So far we are surviving the empty nest much better than expected, and we are enjoying the excitement of being a Tar Heel family!

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