It’s my fault that he left in a U-Haul in the middle of the night. He might try to tell you differently, but don’t believe him. A mother just knows. Especially a mom who once did the same thing.
How could I have known a decision I made when I was 19 would have such an effect on him and the others – and there are quite a few others – that they would pack up their belongings and go in search of new jobs, homes and lives? But it did. And they did.
For me, it was the spring of 1983 – my sophomore year in college at Northwest Missouri State – when the acceptance letter came. I would be transferring to the University of Texas at Austin in the fall, 750 miles away from the world where I’d grown up. I’d never even been to Austin when I applied, but based on the manuals I checked out at the library and the slick catalogues the admissions office mailed, it looked like the kind of place where I wanted to pursue my journalism degree.
I walked onto the campus for the first time the day I moved into the dorm. I didn’t know a soul and that is how I wanted it to be, just me and 40,000+ strangers studying for salaried futures. I was determined to shed the skin of the shy and awkard girl I’d been and transform into a daring and confident woman. I needed to be alone in a crowd to ignite that process.
I quickly made friends with other junior transfer students in my dorm and moved into an apartment with them the next semester. A few years later, I moved onto my career as a TV reporter, marrying a guy I’d met my senior year. We eventually settled in Dallas with our four children; one of whom we named Austin, after those early years and my metamorphosis.
During this time, my two older sisters and their families visited us so often from Missouri they decided to make it permanent. So with husbands and babies in tow, they each moved within mere miles of me. Our babies grew up together and today a few of them are making plans to raise their own baby Texans.
As for my son Austin, last week he moved to Austin after leaving at two in the morning. I certainly understand his desire for wanting to go there. It’s his namesake, he’s a musician and it’s a great place to chase after dreams. Well, all that and he is my son. Still, when I watched him load the U-Haul in front of his apartment, I wished for a millisecond that I’d named him Denver because then maybe he’d stay here, near me.
I’d moved to Colorado a dozen years ago for career and relationship reasons, dragging my children along with me, because that’s what a mother does. He recently finished college in Denver and left to explore a career, because that’s what a graduate does. I’ll visit him of course, as I do all the others who remain in Texas, like a gardener checking on her transplants to make sure they’re thriving.
Sometimes I wonder, however, what would have happened if my 19-year-old self had decided to go to Syracuse University instead, which was my second choice. Would most of my family have wound up in New York?
My brother does happen to live in the Northeast now, and I think it may have something to do with an even younger me. The summer I turned 15 and he was eight, I begged our parents to take us to New York City. It is entirely possible that our extraordinary vacation is what drew my brother back there as an adult with his wife and two kids.
He might try to tell you differently, but don’t believe him. A sister just knows.
NOTE: The photo at the top of this story is of my son Austin and me sitting in front of a music store on 6th Street while visiting Austin, Texas, in 2012. We’re both in deep thought – me about my past here and him about his future here.