Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

In comments to the post below about this past weekend, Mr. G. Hand asks: “But, how was the visit of Eldest Gel after the freedom of the dorm? Enquiring minds want to know!”

Well, as the farmer interested in the enormous commercial possibilities of ovine aviation said, “A feer quistion, and one that in recent weeks ‘as been mooch on moy moynd.”

You see, as the date of The Homecoming got closer and closer, the Eldest began talking about it more and more, going on at great length about how ready she was to get away from school and how glad she was to be coming back to Port Swiller Manor.  Indeed, last week she spoke of almost nothing else (aside from the elections, that is).  I won’t say that she became obsessive, but I will say that Mrs. Robbo and I were only mostly joking when we agreed we’d better have a contingency plan ready to go in the event the Gel announced she was going to move back in, transfer to community college, and get a job at Robek’s.  (That plan, as it turned out, was simply to say, “Oh, no you’re not.”)

Well, when the Gel rolled in Wednesday evening, she certainly was excited to be home.  For about the next 48 hours or so, she fully indulged herself in all of her old favorite activities – fooling with the dog, swinging on the rope swing out back, looking up HS friends, and so on.

But by Saturday morning, I couldn’t help noticing something of a change coming over the gel.  She started to seem a bit….antsy.  Fidgety, if you will.  Standing on one foot or the other with impatience.  This gradually got more noticeable as the day went by.  Indeed, she also started getting a bit testy with us.  At one point, when Mrs. R was fussing at her about something, the gel snapped, “You know, there are times when I like the concept of you guys much more than the reality of having to deal with you.”

By Sunday, the Gel also was making jokes about how she had to go back to school because she just couldn’t stand being under the same roof as her sisters any longer because of all the noise and hubbub.

On the other hand, another thing was that the Gel started talking to me about the things she likes at school.  You can’t get this stuff out of her if you ask – she just goes contrary and clams up.  But if you sit very still and let her bring it up herself, she’ll let it out – the friends she’s making; the clubs and activities she’s joined (including her favorite Friday evening trips to VMI for ball room dancing – she even volunteered to drive a carpool); her classes (except French).  As for the “freedom of the dorm”, that’s definitely part of it too, although not the way you might think.  What she enjoys most, I think, is the responsibility of running her own life.  (She despises those girls who have gone off the deep end of of debauchery now that they’re out from under the parental thumb.  There’s a lot of Scots Presbyterian blood running through that kid’s veins.)

In short, I think the Gel realized this weekend that already there is a part of her that likes being at college even more than it likes being at home.  I also think she surprised herself in this discovery, since she had been so eager to visit beforehand.

The final clue?  Not once did I hear her say anything about not wanting to head back Monday morning.  She was up at 5 ack emma, and after a big hug and a perfunctory “see you”, she was off to arm herself with coffee and donuts, pick up her classmate who was catching a ride back with her, and head down the highway.

This makes ol’ Robbo very happy.   Leaving home certainly can be hard on a kid, but it is absolutely critical if you expect them ever to really grow up.  And after some initial bumps and shudders, it seems to me as if the Gel now “gets” it.

Incidentally, Mrs. Robbo and I will be headed down to see the Gel in her newly naturalized habitat for Family Weekend in a few weeks.  (I don’t think they call it “family” as opposed to “parents” weekend because of political correctness.  Instead, I think they want to encourage younger sisters to check the place out.  I know for certain that the Director of Admissions would love to get her hooks into the Middle Gel if she could.)  I wonder if we will look as hopeless a pair of doofuses (doofii?) in that environment as the Old Gentleman and the Mothe did to me when they came to visit me my freshman year.

No doubt.  No doubt.

But that’s good, too.

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