Sunday, October 23, 2011

Focusing on "Firsts", not "Lasts"

Last week we spent fall break in California, looking at colleges.  At this point in H's college search, we're narrowing the list down, instead of adding to it.  There were six colleges she was strongly interested in before the trip, and afterwards, there were only two.   


One thing I learned about California...specifically the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas.  They don't have enough roads for all the cars.  Seriously.  Driving  the 45 miles from Santa Clara to San Francisco took almost three hours.  The last 90 minutes were spent crawling the last 10 miles.  Luckily, we finished up our marathon driving with a day and a half to relax (aka:  shop) in San Francisco, and fit in a couple of nice meals. 

Since we realized the last three times we were in San Francisco we ate at the same places (Boulevard, Slanted Door, Bix), we tried a couple of new places.  Chaya, a French-Japanese brasserie at the Embarkadero, that we loved.  Warm and intimate, with amazing sushi and a nice wine list.  It was a really nice evening. The fact that we were able to stay awake throughout a leisurely dinner made it even better, since that morning we started in Los Angeles, then toured U.C.  Davis, Santa Clara University, and survived the marathon drive to San Francisco, so we were exhausted.

Crunchy Tuna at Chaya... bad photo, incredible dish!
 The next night we walked around the block to Fish and Farm, which although it didn't have the ambiance we felt at Chaya, had unbelievable food.  Even the salted butter for the warm rolls was superb!  Fish and Farm serves locally sourced Seafood, Meat and Produce, sourcing most from within a 100 mile radius.

Pan Seared halibut with heirloom tomatoes at Fish and Farm
 Even though neither of these places were on the "top 100" list of San Francisco restaurants, they would have topped most restaurants in Nashville.  The Nashville restaurant scene is getting better, don't get me wrong, but I think there are only a small handful here that serve consistently good, unique, and local or organic food. 

But back to the college search process.  It's all very exciting, looking at great schools, in great cities, with great academics...but it's a nerve-wracking process for all of us.  With the common app, it's a little bit easier to apply to multiple schools, but when the pool of possible colleges and universities gets so big, it gets overwhelming.  H really wants a school with smaller class sizes.  She loves being able to get to know her teachers, and doesn't relish the thought of being in a class with 150-400 students.  But on the other hand, the small schools often don't have the breadth of opportunities, and since she changes her mind about what she wants to study about once a month, she would like to have multiple choices, in case her first choice doesn't end up being her passion.

I've been impressed with how thoroughly she has researched her possibilites, and her enthusiasm for exploring all aspects of the decision.  She has narrowed her list from 14-15 to 7 schools.  From Washington, DC to California, she has pretty much covered the United States with choices.  Anything but in the south, or close to home, which I'm O.K. with.  I don't know if it's because she's an only child, or because she has traveled extensively, and lived in the same city her whole life, but she is ready to fly.  When the applications finally get sent, and the acceptance/rejection letters arrive, it will definitely get interesting.  Right now, even though I am trying not to be a helicopter mom and let her drive through the application process, I know I will be relieved when the last "submit" button is pushed. 

But I am trying to relish these days.  Everything is the "last time".  Her last "first day of school", her last Friday night football game, her last ACT test, her last homecoming, etc.  She's decided to do senior spring break with her friends this year, so for the first time, we'll do spring break separately.  That means we had our last "family spring break" last year without even knowing it!  When J and I hiked Little Green Mountain in North Carolina this morning, we realized the next time we hike and play the alphabet game (a tradition we had with H for years) will probably be with our grandchildren.  But instead of focusing on "last", I'm trying to focus on "firsts".  The first time we let her stay home overnight alone, the first time she makes her own meals,  the first time she moves away, the first time she comes home for the holidays.  We will have many "firsts" ahead.  The first time she brings a boy home will be exciting (hopefully!), the first time we drive away and leave her in her dorm room will be...I don't know?  Sad? Exciting? Both?



Preschool graduation

senior photo

Last night we met a few new couples whose children are out of college: working, volunteering, or attending graduate school.  Listening to the pride they had in what their children are doing made me realize that we are not going to be finished parenting our daughter when she goes to college.  Her choices and her possibilites are endless, and it will be so much fun to experience all her "firsts", even if from afar.  There is no way to explain how fast the years feel like they've gone, and I'm sure one day when she has her own family she'll understand why I am so melancholy these days, but I feel so blessed and fortunate to be experiencing it all.