High school seniors are graduating this time of year and many are considering leaving home for the first time. For many parents and some students this impending separation is a difficult time. I do not remember that leaving home was a painful time for me. Rather, I believe that I had gleefully anticipated going off to college as my high school days began to draw to a close at the end of the 1950s. My parents encouraged my dreaming and planning for my college years and I had high hopes for several illustrious careers as I prepared to launch myself out into the world.
My first brave step forward was to enroll in a Texas Panhandle college located about twenty miles from our house. I happily moved into the dorm—Cousins Hall—and learned the very strict rules. Those rules included not wearing pants downstairs, no boys except chaperoned in the downstairs living room, a strict curfew, bed check every night, and a clean room check every week. The dorm also gave me my first experience in sharing a communal bathroom and showers.
Dorm life was quite a change from our warm family atmosphere, but I was determined to make it work for me. I do not remember much about my classes but the social life was enchanting. I quickly acquired a new boy friend with a new car sporting large fins. I pledged my mother’s sorority and acquired many “sisters” to help integrate me into campus life and the activities on campus. Those first two years of college went by in a flash.
My next step farther from home came when I began to dream of going to Kerrville for the summer to teach swimming at a camp for handicapped children. First I had to learn to swim which led me to discover a love for the water that I still have. I was a natural in the water and sailed through the swimming classes and my Life Saving and Water Safety Instructor certification in one year. My parents were not too sure about allowing me to go that far from home but I was hired and off I went. Oh, what a glorious time I had in Kerrville amongst all those trees. I gained many new loves that summer including a boy friend from Austin. I also gained a deep love for the Texas Hill Country and a pet skunk named Pepe La Pew that I kept under the bunk I shared with a blind counselor. She loved to help me take care of Pepe and at the end of the summer I took him home to Mother, poor dear, who later donated it to the zoo.
From Kerrville, I moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas where I received my first degree, but did not marry the boy I met in Kerrville. After graduation, I taught in Austin for three years until I married and we moved to California. Thus my separation from home was fairly well accomplished. I still returned home frequently for the next 40 years, but I never returned there to live.
Do you have a story about leaving home? Take some time to write about your leaving home experience--or experiences. Some of you may have left home, returned, and left home again. Write about it.
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