This was move in weekend for many colleges and universities in Arkansas. My Facebook feed was filled with pictures of friends dropping off their freshmen students at school, shedding tears yet excited for the future. A few months ago, I thought we would be doing the same. Abby fully intended to live on campus for her freshman year at UCA, the university about 20 minutes from our home.
Not that I would have been left with an empty nest. Back in 2019, after finishing her freshmen year (also at UCA), Sarah decided to move back home. Dorm life and all it involved just wasn’t for her; she likes her privacy, her room, and her cat. But Abby really wanted to give it a try. So we made the deposit, took a pilgrimage to IKEA in Memphis for dorm supplies, and picked a dorm/room.
Abby started questioning her decision at the beginning of the summer. After vaccines were widely available late this spring, things were looking up related to COVID. She established contact with her assigned roommate, but was told she “was going to get vaccinated soon” each time she reached out to her. That combined with a series of questionable social media posts led Abby to believe it might not be a good match, but roommates can be changed later.
Potentially bad roommate aside, COVID started spreading like wildfire in our state. Living in a communal setting no longer seemed like the best idea, but we were still hoping for things to improve or at least stabilize. Our family is vaccinated and we knew we would Abby would take the precautions necessary to wear a mask in situations when she was indoors. I made note of move in day on the calendar and we began a pile of dorm related items in the corner of the living room.
We were surprised but not shocked one weekend in July when Abby sat us down and told us she was going to live at home. The COVID crisis, combined with the potential roommate crisis and her own struggles with anxiety led her to the conclusion that she just wasn’t ready to move into the dorm and if she did, it was not going to be the experience she had imagined it to be. We fully supported her decision but wanted her to be sure, so there was a lot of discussion before we emailed UCA to get her off campus housing (living at home) approved. And so was established our current family dynamic. Two parents, two grown children who are college students, three cats, three dogs, one hamster. Whatever the opposite of an empty nest is what we have going on here….a full foxhole?
I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that I am somewhat envious of the parents posting about their children beginning their next chapters in a traditional tangible way. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to be rid of her, but I know she will be missing out on things not living on campus and I had wanted both girls to have a different experience than I had (attending college and living at home). Sarah – it turns out – did not and was not interested. And for now, it seems, neither is Abby.
Although part of me is sad about Abby missing out on the traditional freshman experience and the fact that our lives are essentially the same as they have been…with perhaps more time together than ever due to the fact that Trever still is working from home, another part of me is delighted. We have a great family unit, we really do. Despite the arguments, the power struggles, the shifting and ever evolving dynamics, we have a solid thing going on here. We aren’t perfect, far from it, and there are issues and problems the we encounter that are never seen by the outside world. But we are together during what is still one of the most trying times that any of us can remember. We laugh, we fight, we cry, and we will continue to live and love through this next stage of our lives. Together.
Karri Temple Brackett
August 15, 2021