Target Visit Transports Me To A Distant Memory


I was out shopping this weekend and walked through the doors of Target right into a memory.

I was disoriented at first and couldn’t figure out why I was having such trouble finding simple things like a shower caddy or laundry hamper. It almost seemed like one of those frustration dreams where I am running as fast as I can… in slow motion.

Then it hit me.

The freshmen are headed off to college and they need a few things — things like shower caddies and laundry hampers.

I saw these freshmen in perfect little family units — one parent, one teenager and maybe a sibling or two.

All-female units were giggling and holding things up and using the word “cute” a lot. All-male units were making jokes and throwing necessities into their shopping cart with reckless abandon. Female adult/male teen units were stilted and stoic as they tackled the job at hand — the boy wishing he was anywhere else and the mother knowing it, yet both determined to value the other’s opinion one last time.

One last time.

For the parent, it’s a lump-in-the-throat kind of day.

For the teen, it’s more like a let’s-get-this-over-with-so-I-can-be-on-my-way kind of day.

I remember taking Jenny on that shopping trip. We probably went to Target, and we probably used the word “cute” a lot. Jenny didn’t know it, but I would have bought her anything that day. If she had said she wanted a disco ball for her dorm room, I would’ve bought her one. If she had said she needed a brontosaurus for biology class, I would’ve tracked one down. If she had said, “But, mom, all the UF girls wear haute couture,” I would’ve flown her to Paris. I wanted to spoil her so badly one last time. Or, if I hadn’t spoiled her enough already, I wanted to make amends right then and there. Because the next week, she was going to be gone. It was my last chance.

Dads think they drive their daughters to college to help carry in the mini-fridge. The real reason they have to come is to get the mother back into the car for the trip home.

I wanted to be strong that day. I wanted to be at least as confident as Jen. But what if something happened? For 18 years, I had been there every single time something had happened.

No, deep in my heart, I knew that wasn’t true. Plenty of things had happened and I hadn’t been there — the safety patrol trip when she had a high fever, the Girl Scout camping weekend when the leader started driving home without her, the near-miss engagement to her high school crush. She had figured things out. She’d sat in a tub full of ice, run after the disappearing car and told the boyfriend she’d like to wait a year. The kid made good decisions.

As for me, it seemed like the best two decisions I’d ever made were first to have her, and then to let her go.