Sending your first child off to college is an experience unlike any other – one that you can’t really prepare for, or anticipate all the emotions of.
Starting sometime in her junior year of high school you create “the list” – of potential schools she’ll apply to. Then later that year you begin the round of college visits – a surreal experience if there ever was one. I vividly remember walking around various campuses with Chelsea, trying my best to pay attention to the impossibly perky and adorable “ambassadors” leading our tours – but with my head swimming with the thought that this may be where my little girl will be living a year from now. I would quell the ensuing panic by reminding myself that I still had a “whole year” – plus!!! – before she left. As if a year, when you are a parent, is a lot of time.
Especially when that year is senior year – application deadlines, acceptance (and sometimes rejection) letters, senior prom, graduation, shopping/packing/orientation………….and in a blink you are back on that same campus with hundreds of other young adults and their parents (strained smiles are the order of the day), setting up her too-small, too-far-away dorm room. There are some rushed hugs and “I’ll text you later”s and…………she’s gone.
Or more accurately, YOU’RE gone. Back to a house that looks the same, but feels totally different.
I always assumed that Chelsea’s first year away would be the hardest – that by her second year I’d be a “pro” at packing her up, setting up her room, saying our good-byes and adjusting to her absence. And some of that did happen. But that first year is also so fraught – with texts, phone calls, excitement and just the novelty of it all – that it goes by quickly, without a whole lot of time or opportunity for introspection.
It was her second year that really blindsided me. Yes, we were now “old pros”. Most of her dorm supplies had already been purchased the year before. Setting her up and saying good bye felt much less intense and dramatic. She had her best friends as roommates. And before I knew it, we were back home and back to normal.
It was only then that it hit me – this is the new normal. Yes, she’ll be home for the occasional doctor appointment, Thanksgiving and winter break – but she’ll always be leaving to go back. And eventually she’ll be leaving for good.
Don’t get me wrong – this is what we prepared for. This is exactly what we wanted for her. Truthfully, I can no longer even really remember what it was like when she lived here full-time. That seems like forever ago. I couldn’t be more proud of my beautiful, smart, funny and accomplished daughter. She is my hero, my role model, my partner in crime. We definitely make the most of her time at home – sleepovers in the city, trips to the next great bakery or boutique we’ve discovered, baking some delicious treats to bring back to her friends at school.
And of course, cooking her favorite meals – her favorite which I share with you here. It’s not fancy or complicated, but I now save it for when she comes home.
She’s home now – and although it’s not for long (or forever), it’s the best thing ever.
What are some of your special family meals and how do they connect you with the people you love?
Chicken Caesar Wraps
adapted from the New York Times
2 T Dijon mustard
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. white wine vinegar
8 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
1- 1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 clove of garlic
2 slices of bread – I use whatever sandwich bread I happen to have
1 head of romaine lettuce, shredded
Place chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet – season with salt and pepper. Whisk mustard, mayonnaise and vinegar in a small bowl. Pour in 6 T of the olive oil in a steady stream, whisking till emulsified. Put 2-3 tablespoons of the dressing into a separate bowl and brush onto both sides of the chicken.
Broil or grill the chicken till cooked through – when cool enough to handle, slice or shred into thin pieces. Set aside.
Mince the garlic in a food processor. Add the bread slices and pulse till you have uniform crumbs. In a small skillet heat the remaining 2 T of olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the bread crumbs and stir frequently, till golden brown. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
Heat tortillas on the grill or in a skillet – stack on a plate and wrap with foil to keep warm.
Assemble your wraps – put a layer of shredded lettuce on a tortilla. Follow with some chicken, cheese, bread crumbs and a drizzle of dressing. Roll up tightly and serve.