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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Son begins a new adventure in Chicago

Like so many parents, I sent my son off to school last week. But this time was different: Joe is beginning graduate school, 850 miles from home.

I’ve been spoiled.

Aside from his semester in Madrid, a summer in Boston and last month’s jaunt with a couple of college pals in Croatia, Joe’s almost always been within a 2-1/2-hours drive.

His older brother David was about 4 hours away during college but, coincidentally, was only 10 minutes from his grandfather. And nowadays Dave is a mere mile across town, close enough to drop off his homemade tilapia with risotto tonight or to meet up with me this morning at the West Side rec to help his mom cram for the startup of Monday night tennis.

So while Chicago is hardly the end of the earth, and Southwest can fly me there almost as quickly as I could drive to Colgate University (at 10 times the cost), it’s farther away than I’m used to having my son. I’ll admit to having been a bit weepy just before he left. I was better Friday, the day he took off. Besides, he’s only a text message away, so I having nothing to complain about (aside from the sporadic responses to my text messages).

Truth is, though, that I’m excited and happy for him. Chicago is a vibrant, friendly city (but don’t stray into the dangerous sections, Joe), University of Chicago has a great reputation (aside from its informal motto as the place where fun goes to die), and computational neuroscience (go look it up on Wikipedia) is an exciting field of study that promises to be a good match for his love for mathematics and scientific curiosity.

Lots of natural light and hardwood floors
make an apartment's shortcomings forgivable.

Several of the drawers and cabinets
actually open and close properly.
I vaguely remember flying out alone to Ohio State University to get my master’s in journalism. Somehow I found an apartment, furniture and food. I felt independent. It was an adventure. I worked hard on my schoolwork, but it was fun. I hope Joe’s experience will be all that and more.

Bedroom has two windows and
lots of closet space;
who needs a radiator?
This spring I met up with two girlfriends from California and Pittsburgh for a “girls weekend” in Chicago. While waiting for Paulette to arrive, Ruth and I checked out a few apartments in the Hyde Park neighborhood that Joe had scoped out online, and she posed for me in each room (see pics). He ended up renting this place, on the second floor of a building between the university and Lake Michigan, with hardwood floors and lots of windows (to let in plenty of natural light but hopefully not the Windy City wind).

I am looking forward to seeing that apartment again at some point, this time with him and his stuff in it. In a few days he’ll trade the sleeping bag for a real bed. Before long, there will be a table, a chair, a sofa.

When I say Joe’s 850 miles from home, I mean from my home. Truth is, he’s quite ready to begin finding a place he can call home. I’ll just be grateful that, at least for now, it’s in a city where Southwest flies nonstop.


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