The very first friend I made my freshman year at Indiana University is arriving in Vermont Labor Day weekend to bring her youngest child to college. She will head east to deliver her daughter to a school half a country away but practically on my doorstep. In this completion of some esoteric circle, I hear the echoes of her mother’s and my arrival 34 years ago to dorm rooms just several doorways apart.
Coincidentally, the only other activity I have on my agenda that weekend is a double baby shower, for two friends who are each having their first child. There have been quite a few newborns who have entered my life, or those of my friends, over the last few months.
I’m not big on babies, which only partly explains why I never had any of my own. I watch friends and co-workers practically drool over the prospect of an infant in the social circle and think I must be from another planet.
The thought of being a port in a storm to a college freshman, on the other hand, has me planning day trips and urging said teen and her mom to think of me as the first responder in any kind of emergency. I barely know this young woman; she strikes me as bright, thoughtful and slightly shy, but perfectly capable of finding her own way through a new environment. What does she need with a middle-aged college friend of her mother’s?
She will make her own way, find her own friends, settle into her own dorm room. The world is her oyster, and along the way she will find success and make mistakes that will help her figure out who she is and where she belongs. If occasionally she craves home cooking or needs to escape her roommate’s boyfriend for the weekend, I’m delighted to be on call.
I suppose it’s possible that the maternal instinct can simply skip the formative years. Perhaps, as I get older, my eagerness to hang on to some vestige of my youth leads me to reach farther down the generational chain. Or maybe it’s as simple as this: I see a bright young woman, full of potential and far from home, who might need a trusted hand to help her cross over this new threshold.