Monday, August 21, 2017

The Empty Nest and Cville Terror Aftermath

Seamus moved into his dorm on Saturday - a day I was both dreading and anticipating. To be honest, I am totally OK with being an empty nester. I've been parenting for twenty-five years, and while I love my children more than anything, I am ready for them to be launched. Also, I've learned from experience when my older children moved out, that the parent-child relationship changes after they leave. You can be less of a parent, more of a friend. (Not to say that you're absolved from all parenting duties, and seeing your child go through young-adult crises and heartbreaks is agonizing.)

That said, when a child moves out, there's a big hole in your life that takes a while to fill. But after time passes, everyone adjusts, and your kids come home for visits and holidays and it's lots of fun.

Move-in itself went smoothly. Friday night, we were woefully unprepared and not packed, but when around 10:00 pm, I finally got around to reading the move-in instructions, I learned that the check-in time for Seamus' hall and floor wasn't until 4:30 pm, which gave us a lot more time to get packed and organized.

For those of you not familiar with Virginia Commonwealth University, it's a large state university in the middle of Richmond. It's truly an urban campus, with no real defined boundary between the school and its neighborhood, known as the "Fan" a large fan-shaped area of 1800s buildings just west of downtown Richmond. Seamus preferred this to the self-contained and peaceful setting at George Mason University, the other school that accepted him.

I took a few pictures of the VCU neighborhood, walking back to the dorm after parking. Most of these buildings are part of the university. VCU is a large state school, but without the usual soulless, large, state school campus. Richmond's Fan is one of the loveliest urban neighborhoods I know.

Streets close to the dorms were closed to all but VCU students, so we were able to pull right up to the door of Seamus' dorm and unload the car. I drove off to one of the designated long-term parking areas, while Jon and Seamus waited for student volunteers to help carry his things up to his room on the 11th floor. The streets were alive with volunteers and campus police to direct people and music played out into the streets - a nice touch to relieve stress and create a festival atmosphere.

Seamus' new home

We didn't get to meet Seamus' roommate because he had already moved his stuff in and gone off somewhere when we arrived, but he left a note with his phone number, which has an out of state area code. He's a complete stranger, but his note was considerate and his belongings, neatly arranged, were similar to the sorts of things that Seamus brought, which bodes well, I think. (Significantly, he didn't bring a TV. Ian's freshman roommate brought a huge TV which he would turn on the minute he got up each day. It was enormously irritating and inconsiderate.) We picked up Grace and all went out to dinner before Jon and I drove back to Charlottesville. It's only an hour's drive from Cville to Richmond, so we are close at hand, but not too close. 

All settled in.

The move-in was successful, but not without trauma. Starting college is a stressful event for the whole family. On top of that, last week was very difficult as we tried to assimilate the feelings of having been under attack,  and then to hear Trump's remarks, calling the nazis who murdered a young woman and who threw fuel at protesters and tried to set them on fire, "fine people" and then basically saying that we deserved this violence. I didn't get more than four hours of sleep a single night this week and rogue nazis continued to terrorize us for days. On Monday evening, as I walked Phoebe, three men on scooters deliberately swerved at me and tried to run me over. I had to flatten myself into a hedge to escape and they all beeped and laughed at me as they passed. The "violence on both sides" argument is a vicious fiction in order to gaslight those of us who don't support Donald Trump. And on top of that, the terrorist attack in Barcelona was traumatic to hear about, and on top of that, the contrast between Trump's response to the Barcelona attack, compared to his response to the Charlottesville attack is sickening. Donald Trump is an irredeemable beast and he is actively engaged in the ethnic cleansing of the United States. He refuses to denounce the people who attacked Charlottesville because they are doing what he wants. Trump is a sadistic monster who enjoys seeing his opponents suffer.

On Wednesday night, 5,000 people in our community gathered on the UVA grounds to reclaim our space with a candlelight vigil. I attended, and although I think this was a healing event for many, I was overwhelmed by a crushing sense of despair. There have been few times in my life when I felt more alone and sad.  I already deleted the pictures I took (which were terrible) but here's one I shared on instagram, of people gathering in Nameless Field before the march.  Lots of spectacular pictures elsewhere.

A post shared by Aileen Bartels (@aileenbartels) on

Anyway, the house is a bit lonely now, but we will be fine. I am glad this hateful summer is nearly over though.
Seamus' empty room. This is certain to become Phoebe's bed now.


  1. What a horrible no good week. The badly labeled lawyer's office across the hall from my office was the original court appointed defense lawyer for the driver. I'm used to giving directions to people looking for him, but the specimens of humanity crawling around the office last Monday morning caused us to just close up early and go home. Even keeping our door locked didn't feel safe. We also had a very horrible personal tragedy to deal with at my office, so it really did seem as if the world had gone insane. Oh, and they decided to resurface and repave our road last week - only all they did was resurface it. So jackhammers for 8 straight hours last Monday. My nerves are still shot. They still haven't paved it though - and they've been working on water lines on Gentry - the road Walker school is on, so it looks like yours earlier in the summer. If the city were together, they'd pave it before school buses start running on it Wednesday, but I know, I'm asking the city to actually be proactive and as the world has seen this past week, our city is not capable of providing basic functions. If I weren't so foul mouthed and short tempered, I'd consider running for office to show these jokers how it's done. Every time I think I've calmed down, I see something new that sets me off - Saturday it was the op-ed piece written by our mayor in the NYTimes. I may have woke up my entire family yelling at the opening paragraph.

    Positives though - Edie had her student council leadership retreat Friday at CHS. She came home telling us what the students had told the admin about how and what they were going to deal with everything that happened here this summer. (There's also the issue of the teacher...and I'll leave it at that here.) That's what made me burst into tears - the kids. They have been through so much this summer. They have good ideas on how we need to handle it all with them. Can they please be in charge already?

    Seamus looks so adult in that photo. I can't believe that gang of boys are all off to college. Enjoy your empty nesting!

  2. I'm also an empty nester as of this past weekend. Luckily I had a rash and a horrible neck pain to distract me from missing my kids. This past week was so depressing and terrible in so many ways.

    Mr. Seamus is all grown up!

  3. I love that his new roommate seems considerate from the start. Hopefully he has a great year. That's a pretty looking campus. I never saw it before.
    Trying to imagine an empty nest. We have bursts of it when all 3 boys are gone, and it feels weird. I suppose we'll adjust when it's time, though.
    That's a gorgeous image of peace. I hope the rest of this year feels like your picture looks.

  4. All the best to your new college student! We, too, have become empty nesters, as of today. I am exhausted physically, but the emotional part hasn't really hit me yet.

    I hope peace will come to your heart and to Charlottesville.

  5. I am do jealous of your empty nest! This lice on vacation ordeal is making me want to scream (and just generally itchy).
    Wtf? When does a mom on vacation actually get to vacation anyway?

  6. I have followed your posts off and on for a long time - arriving somehow via i am the giraffe who i have followed forever--- i came especially here recently because of the vileness and horror that is #45 and i remembered that your blog is home in charlottesville. it's just all so awful, and this post made me cry. it is also so incredibly beautiful where you live, and that campus - i had no idea. my kids are spaced so far apart that i am a gramma (the BEST) to my oldest daughter's children, and still have my baby at home, but this is his senior year... not sure at all how empty nesting will hit me!

    1. Thank you so much for your kindness in thinking of me.