Monday 26 Sep 2016

Coming Home Empty
AJ Robinson

I also call this story, "Teddy Goes to College." We just returned from Jupiter, and I don't mean the planet. No, the city in Florida; it's where the Wilkes Honor College is located, and where our daughter just started as a freshman.

This is where Teddy comes in.

I remember the old "Peanuts" comic strip, and Linus and his security blanket. His sister Lucy used to torment him about constantly carrying that thing around. I even remember one series of comics where she used him as the basis for her science fair project - and one first prize.

Our daughter had just such a security item: Teddy. She wasn't even a month old when one of my wife's co-workers gave her Teddy, and she latched onto that little bear! He became her constant companion; she even held it as she had her first photo taken for her first birthday. On one trip to Orlando, to visit Disney World, of course, the unthinkable happened: Teddy, forgotten in the hotel room, when we left. Our daughter was inconsolable for days. Fortunately, we were able to call the hotel, and the housekeeping staff went through the room. Unfortunately, they were unable to find him. In fact, he had rolled up in the sheets, and he went through the laundry. That's where they found him, and shipped him home.

After that, we were always careful to secure Teddy in his "car seat" before leaving on a trip, and checking that he was back in it before we left to come home.

Over the years, as our daughter grew, Teddy became less and less important, but not entirely forgotten. He earned a place of honor on the shelf of her room.

Then we arrived at this week, and her departure for college. We loaded up the van with her clothes, books, laptop, electric keyboard, and so on. Oh, and of course: Teddy. The van sat low on the driveway pavement, and the drive to the campus seemed especially quick; about as quick as the previous eighteen years! Yeah, those years flew by. I remembered that first year picture, Teddy in her arms, going to daycare, first day of school, going to Disney World, getting her cat, her dog, her pet rat; yeah, that's right, a pet rat, playing "Nancy Drew" computer games, learning to fence, first boyfriend, he had mean eyes, in my humble opinion, and so much more. All of those events seemed to telescope down to a single year. Heck, a year; no, it was more like a single week.

We arrived on campus, unloaded everything and went through orientation. When the day was done, also in especially quick time, it was time to say good-bye. We left our daughter at her dorm and went to our hotel room. The next morning, we headed home, empty, in many ways.

The car was light, but our hearts were heavy, and the drive seemed unusually long. I remembered some of those other drives: vacations, trips to see family, doctor visits and so on. In all of those trips, Teddy was there.

Now, Teddy is there, too, at college.

He moved on and so has our daughter. Phase one of her life has ended: childhood, and now she embarks on phase two: she is now a young adult.

As we drove home, the van so very empty, I had to wonder: what sort of life would Teddy have?

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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