my mother wants me to
go to college
the closest she has ever been
her father had needed her
to dig the potatoes
and load them into burlap bags
but here she is
leaving her daughter
on the campus in the city time to go
we go to the parking lot
old glasses thick graying hair
she is wearing a man’s shirt
has to get back to the job
we stand beside her Ford and it is
here she undoes the buckle of the watch
and holds it out to me
my father’s watch
keeping good time for him
and then for her
she says she knows I will
need a watch to get to class
we hug and she gets in
starts the car
eases into traffic
the metal of the back of the watch
is smooth to my thumb
and it keeps for a moment
a warmth from her skin.
~Marjorie Saiser from “She Gives Me the Watch off Her Arm” from
I Have Nothing To Say About Fire
When I decided to attend college out of state, to a campus I had never seen before, my mother decided she couldn’t handle the goodbye in a strange place, so sent me on a two day drive with my dad. She was a very emotional person and he wasn’t, so he got the job of dropping me off.
It was a quiet car ride with only my dad and myself together. I think we both dreaded the upcoming parting moments.
When the moment came – my things scattered chaotically about my dorm room, marijuana smoke haze filling the dorm hallway and noise everywhere with loud music and the partings of students and parents – I looked at him with foreboding and desperation at this foreign environment to which I must learn to adapt. His eyes filled with tears — the first time in 18 years I had seen him cry — and he said “you know what you are here for,” hugged me tight and turned around and left.
My father didn’t give me anything but those parting words, but they still ring in my ears every day whenever I am feeling somewhat desperate, even now fifty years later.
It was a rough start at college for me, homesick as I was, in an unsupportive unstructured dorm environment. I came home at Thanksgiving that quarter and didn’t return until the following fall. But I finished strong and never looked back. You can’t go home again, not really.
Now I know what I am here for.
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