What a day today has been.
Ashes’ orientation at Salem. We started bright and early at five, but got a late start, between Ashes taking her time and forgetting things, and Theo getting ready for school. Then, getting through Boston during rush hour was horrible, so what should have been a one hour trip turned out to be a two hour trip. We arrived at 9:30 when we should have been checking in at eight.
I feel responsible for that, in part. I should have cracked the whip more. Gotten us out earlier.
Anyway, the problem was further compounded when Ashes stepped out of the car and realized that the skirt she had purchased the night before at Target was practically see-through in the light of day (PS: we discovered later that it actually wasn’t, but somehow the slip tucked up inside.) This caused her to burst in tears, and Josie moved her into the back seat of the car to change clothes.
After a few minutes, she was able to get her act together and we moved to the Orientation center. We approached a Navigator at the front desk, who said that the kids had already started their work, and that they would move Ashes’ stuff to the dorms and she would be escorted to meet everyone else. But first, did she want to go to the bathroom?
After going there for a cry, she returned and was led off. Josie and I went to the parents’ orientation meeting.
Half way through the first session, Josie turned to me. “She’s going to need clothes for tomorrow.”
I nodded. “And a cell phone. I’m really worried about her not having a cell phone.”
She looked down at the schedule. “You know, we could scoot out after the session on how to provide emotional support for your college student. If we can find a store around here quickly, we could be back before the financial support section.”
Which is exactly what we did. Except, rather than just buying one outfit, Josie decided to buy about five different outfits, so she’d have a selection of things. And, rather than just buying her a track phone, we decided to buy her a regular phone for the entire year. Hey, we were going to need to do it, anyhow. And, we put our names and numbers into the phone, so she’d have them.
At lunch time—the last time we were supposed to see her for the day—we presented her with her gifts. “Now, we’ll put them with your luggage at the dorms,” Josie said. “But you need to go eat with your group. The counselors said so.”
“I want to eat with you,” she said, her lip quivering. “There’s no room over there.”
We tried to talk her out of it, but she was insistent. So, reluctantly, we let her sit through us. She barely picked at her chicken salad sandwich. After about a half an hour later, her group was called, and we said our goodbyes.
“I hate this,” she said. “Everyone hates me. I wish it was Friday afternoon.”
“You’ll be fine,” I said, trying to mimic what the counselor had said during the session on Providing Emotional Support for your College Student. “You can do this.”
Ashes made a face and walked away.
Josie and I left her and made our way to the Salem Inn. Walked around Salem, did some thrift shopping. Had some ice cream.
I noticed a group of Salem University students as we were eating ice cream. “Look, those are orientation kids. I wonder what group they are?” I scanned the group. “Not Ashes.”
“That would be too funny, if it was.”
“But look at how they’re all acting,” I said. “They’re all just eating their ice cream, and not speaking to anyone else. They’re acting just like Ashes.”
We actually did spot Ashes, about twenty minutes later. She seemed to be enjoying the door. I winked at her as we passed by, and a blond girl whispered something to her.
Seemed like a good sign. We walked through Salem a bit more. Got lost, which helped us walk our ice cream off.
Around five thirty, we received our first text. “Do I have to sign up for the year?”
“Yes,” I texted back. “Relax. You can do it.”
A half an hour later. “My girl was supposed to take me to my stuff, but I think she left.”
I texted back. “Where are you?”
“Just walk to the dorm hall. It’s right across from the cafeteria.”
About fifteen minutes later. She texts Josie. “I tried to get my stuff, but the man at the desk wouldn’t let me have them.”
“Why not?” texted Josie.
“He says I need a Navigator.”
Josie looked at me. “What should I do?” Her phone buzzed again. “Oh, shit. She says she only has one bar left on her phone, now.”
I sighed. “Well, she forgot her pillows in the back of the car, anyway. I guess we could drive over. Especially if she has only one bar left on her phone.”
So, we drove about a mile away to the university. Met her outside the dorms. “I hate this,” she said. “Can I go to the Inn with you?”
I looked away, trying not to betray any softness. “Absolutely not.”
We walked her to the main desk. Josie did the talking. I would have been grouchy. “Why can’t Ashes get her luggage?” she asked.
“She needs a Navigator,” the kid behind the desk said.
“But there’s no Navigator around,” she replied.
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but without identification, I can’t—“
“But she identification!” said Josie. “She has her Navigator card.”
The main desk boy frowned. “Oh. She didn’t show me that.”
“Did you ask her for it?” Josie asked.
The boy shook his head. “She can go to her room. But I can’t get her bags out of the storage area. It’s locked. I’ll need a Navigator to do that.”
Well, we searched high and low for a Navigator. Only could find a teacher, who was able to talk to the director of the program. But by the time she arrived, the Navigators came out from the cafeteria—they had been in a meeting about procedures all that time. Ashes “girl” came right over to us. “I’ll take care of her,” she informed us.
We left the university, headed off to dinner. I called my folks to let them know what was going on. “Whatever you do tonight, Teddy, don’t go back to that college. Turn your phone off if you have to. But if you go back there, that’s it.”
With that warning in mind, we chose a nice restaurant called Rockafellas. I ordered a Salem Witch martini and steak tips, and we sat outside. Next to us, a two year old little girl with golden locks made eyes at Josie.
“Make you want another?” I asked.
She smiled. “I’ve got Kaeden.” Then paused. “By the way, this is pretty fitting. Our wedding anniversary is in six days, you know.”
“Happy anniversary!” I said, and smiled.
A buzz from her phone. She looked down. “Oh no.” She pushed the phone to one side. “I’ll deal with THAT after supper.”
“You sure you want to call her?” We looked at each other for a moment. “Okay, fine.”
Thirty minutes later. We’ve moved into our “family suite” at the Salem Inn. “She says she’s spent the past three hours in her room,” called Josie from her room. “She won’t go out. She won't even go to the bathroom.”
I poked my head out of my bedroom to look at Josie, slightly stunned. “Why?”
“She won’t even change into the clothes I bought her. Says it would be too embarrassing if her room mate walked in. Oh, by the way, she's informed me that her room mate is cold and frigid. And hates her. She says she went into their room for a second, ignored Ashes, then ran out to see her new friends. Says everyone has friends except her.”
“Ashes should go out and do some stuff,” I said. “Not sit in her room. Tell her to go out and walk around.”
“Ted, if she won’t go to the bathroom…”
“It’s all my fault,” I said mournfully. “If I hadn’t gotten us here earlier…”
“I’m not sure getting here on time would have stopped this,” Josie replied. Another buzz from her cell phone. “She says it’s our fault, because we never prescribed her anti-anxiety medication.”
I groaned. “It’s true! But she’d have to open up to a therapist to get that, and she just won’t.” I paused, debating. “Maybe it’s worse than that. Maybe she’s agoraphobic. Josie, she just has to see this through.”
Josie looked down at her phone. “Theo says he’s been talking to her, too. He told her to just go out. She’s calling him again.”
“Tell him not to answer it!” I said, now bordering on the hysterical. “She needs to be strong. It’s like my dad said. It’s like when you have a newborn and you first place them in another room, and you hear them cry but you have to be strong…”
Ten minutes later, I heard Josie typing away on her phone. “Who are you talking to?” I asked.
She giggled. “You don’t want to know.”
“What are you saying to her?”
“We’re talking about different therapists for her to…wait...oh, yahoo!”
I sprang from the bed, ran into her room. “What was that about?”
“Her room mate just came in with some friends. One of them asked her to hang out with them. She’s actually going!”
"YESSSSSSS!" We high-fived each other, as if our girl had just scored a touchdown.
Our feeling of relief was evident. The talk of a therapist disappeared into thin air. Hopefully a bridge had been crossed, and maybe the baby would be able to sleep through the night in a separate room. At least, for tonight.
Josie looked down at her phone. “Oh, and she just tried on the black Capri pants, and thinks they're really cute, too.”