The University of Chicago cleverly cloaks the moment parents let go of their freshman in “tradition.” New student orientation week begins with a move-in day, followed by a gathering of freshmen and their parents in the chapel for a lighthearted but meaningful welcome. Bagpipers—seriously, bagpipers!—then lead a procession of parents and students to Hull Gate, also known as “the gate of tears.”
Perhaps you can see where this is going?
Several years ago, I was one of the parents giving the hugs and goodbyes on one side of the gate, through which parents were forbidden to pass. Beyond it, upperclassmen stood cheering the entering class while we parents mopped our eyes and found our way to a reception with some swanky college administrators we might have loved to meet any other day.
At the reception, we were asked not to contact our children for the remainder of the week.
Or maybe that was at the gathering in the chapel. Maybe it was forewarned in the scads of college-bound materials that blur in a memory that holds, instead, to the high school poker gang gathered in my dining room, the physics catapult that wouldn’t launch despite a team bound for Stanford, MIT, Chicago and Boalt, the last late-night talks with my son.