Many of you know that our oldest, 18 year old Coleman moved into a college dorm for the first time ever last week. What an exciting time for him! I was okay all week as he prepared for this journey until we started driving through our little town of Ellerbe, NC last Friday morning. We are a very small rural town where most of us know one another (except for those that I swear are in the witness protection program-I actually think Ellerbe is a hub for witness protection). Lee & Coleman rode together since Coleman can have his truck on campus & I followed behind. As we turned onto Main Street, men were at Carroll’s Pantry getting their honeybuns, nabs, Mountain Dews or Pepsi to start the day, they waved at us because that’s what we do here & they knew what we were doing-moving our baby away from home. It was the greetings from others that made me teary-eyed. It was the hometown good-heartedness that choked me up. Their waves were saying, good luck Coleman, keep your head on straight, call home, & remember where you came from.
The whole way to Raleigh, I had flashbacks of the different stages of Coleman’s life; how very curious he was even as a baby, the incredibly difficult time he had talking to people outside of his familial circle, the natural organizer & helper he is, the time that we went to Early College for orientation for 9th grade & how he cried that he didn’t want to go & that’s what I really focused on. Coleman went from a small private Christian school to public school/college. He was overwhelmed, but I stuck to my guns knowing this was the right thing for him & boy was I right. Coleman flourished at the Early College. He quickly became the to-go guy for tech help for the staff & the fella that knew any type of information. If he didn’t know, he would find out! Our neighbor says Coleman should work for the FBI…I think she’s right! I know Coleman is sad to leave the Early College campus, but I know he is so excited for his future at State.
We lugged many totes, pieces of luggage, a Keurig, & more into a tiny dorm. He shares a dorm with one other, but a total of 8 in the suite. Their shared shower (singular) is the size of a very small refrigerator & only has two stalls…hopefully a virus doesn’t sweep through their suite! Making the dorm bed was almost the hardest part of the day. I figured the sheets wouldn’t get washed until Christmas break when the dorms closed! Luckily, there’s a Target across campus, so we made a few finishing touch purchases that Coleman needed. In good ole’ Mills/Berry fashion (the curse is equal on both sides), we thought we were going to eat lunch at what used to be an Applebee’s (first red flag), but now renamed TLC. Crazy name for a restaurant! We seated ourselves per chalkboard instructions & waited 10 minutes before we saw an employee. After placing our orders, we started noticing that no one around us had food. People were talking, looking around, fussing at the waitresses. This was us 45 minutes later when we still didn’t have any food. Then we noticed the sanitation grade-81. We were the start of a big movement at this joint. We left, Lee tried to pay for the little bit of mess we had, the owner said we didn’t owe anything. As soon as we left, every single person in there did too! I’ve always wanted to start a website called The Big Red X of places to not go to, but we’re poor & can’t afford to be sued!
After a lunch of really good sweet tea with a proper lemon wedge (both are difficult to find) & a few pieces of bbq bread, it was back to the dorm where Lee & I were just standing around & Coleman looks at us & says, “when y’all leaving?” We held back the tears with the help of sunglasses & said our goodbyes. For me, I am more excited for Coleman than sad. He is able to get out of this house that is so chaotic & crazy at times or sullen & blue. He’s able to make friends & live without the restraints of worrying about waking Jack up or worrying about Jack messing with him. This is a fresh start for him & we are so excited. However, a lot of Coleman’s Berry Patch duties are now falling on me. From shipping orders, to ordering, closing the BP, etc…I do not like that at all. I don’t even have a printer that works so I can do this stuff. I have learned in my nearly 43 years that printers are evil spawns of Satan himself. If I ever get locked up, it will be for assault on a printer! I buy one a year & suddenly they stop working. As business owners, we became so dependent on him for so much, we are now lost. Coleman was also our personal assistant, not only our live-in assistant, but we farmed him out to everyone else. Who’s going to fix our TVs, computers, printers, & telephones! His favorite saying is, “old people shouldn’t have technology’ (meaning anyone older than 40).
When I got home after Coleman’s move Friday, Jack started moping around. He had a long face, was acting very melancholy. I asked him what was wrong, he said he didn’t feel like doing anything which is crazy cause he never does. Jack was sad that Coleman had moved out. Seeing him so sad broke my heart more than anything. It was also a strange experience since Jack has never shown this type of emotion before. He has never shown sadness. Although he & Coleman do not have a relationship at all, Jack was genuinely saddened. He laid his head on my shoulder & said this is kind of like the song, ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’. And it kind of is. Every now & then I fall apart & I did this while folding some clothes left behind of Coleman’s. I wondered if I’d ever had the opportunity to do his laundry again, partly because I love doing laundry, but I also love doing laundry & knowing that my kids are all under one roof. The lyric in the song, turn around bright eyes reminds me of Coleman, too. I’ve always said he could play Britney Spears son in a movie about her life, they have the same eyes! Coleman has always been able to communicate with just his eyes. They tell you what mood he’s in, his eyes answer questions when he doesn’t use words. The picture is of a note Jack wrote in his diary which I thought was so sweet.
I think Ava has enjoyed having the whole upstairs to herself this past week. Funny story-we were at Cracker Barrel looking around in the gift shop at the NC State stuff & Ava found a NC State onesie with a tutu. She said, ‘we can get this for Coleman if he has a baby at State!’ Omg, don’t even want to think of that! She’s such a funny gal. Jack also unknowingly has a funny side. He told me to call Coleman & tell him to get him an NC State cup & he had to hurry because the store closes at 8. Jack has done called them to find out their hours! Remember when Jack called hunting Ava at camp? I told Coleman, Jack would call every office at State hunting him down. Coleman is going to be infamous on that campus!
This week feels like camp week. I’m feeling like Coleman is at camp. I can’t imagine not seeing his brown eyes for weeks at a time. I wonder what kind of food he’s eating, it can’t possibly be good for him. Wondering what time he’s going to bed at night, will he want to come home to visit, will he meet good friends. This is consuming all of our thoughts. I have to keep reminding myself that he has a good head on his shoulders & has had a wonderful support system through the years…that is keeping me sane. Coleman, I know you’re reading this-make good decisions or I’m coming up there to beat you!!!! Just kidding (or am I)????