August 16th, 2019


And We Have Lift Off

It took more than four days to finally complete, but I guess in a way we'd really started the preparations more than eighteen years ago...

The Jet is launched into The Colorado School of Mines, and he's having a great time.

I'm so glad. And relieved, but also just so proud of how he worked through a rather tough situation.

On Monday, the day of the move-in, all the Leaning Communities were moving in at the same time, along with the various sport teams, and anyone that had a solid connection to the other communities that were all going to the Ore Digger camp up in the mountains for three days. The setup was something completely new to me, all the parents and their vans/cars/trucks/U-Haul trailers would pull up to a designated unloading zone and would have 15 minutes to unload everything in their car. Hordes of volunteers would descend on the pile and take everything up to the rooms.

Many of the drop zones were for more than one dorm. All of the boxes were supposed to be labelled with the owner's name, dorm name, room number, and phone number. Not everyone did that, and I cannot imagine what they would have done in this situation, because the labeling actually helped resolve things. Yes. It does get resolved. No suspense here.

We arrived, we started unloading things, and Jet realized he needed a room key to get into the room, so he went off to get that. John and I finished unloading all the boxes, and volunteers started grabbing things and going off with them. Occasionally asking, "Does this go to Elm?" Which everything did, and I would have the ones that I interacted with repeat the room number to me, which they all did. When it was all out of the van, John drove it off to park it and I sat with the remaining items, deciding that I'd hold Jet's monitor as it was pretty fragile and huge. By the time Jet got back, everything but his rock had gone off to his room.

Yes. There's a Rock. All freshmen have to bring a ten pound rock for the iconic Mines M on Mt. Zion. They hike with it up to the M, place it, whitewash it while getting "helped" by the upperclassmen, and when they're seniors, they can come up and take one with them when they go out in the world. It's an interesting tradition, still rooted in the mountains and geological roots of the school.

So he carried his rock up to his room, we got all his stuff into the room with all the stuff from his two other roommates, whom had all arrive at the same time. Yes, it's a triple. I'm impressed, honestly. They got a nice, big corner room that's designed to be a triple, but it's still just one room for three people to live in. The two other families were there variously, and it was nice to meet both roommates and their families.

One very Jet-thing then happened, as John started to suggest things that could be taken care of as part of the move-in, Jet said, "Let's just go walk around and see some things. I can take care of all that later."

*laughs* So we did. It was a good walk around, and we visited the bookstore to see if there was any more things we wanted to buy than we'd bought already. There was a sustainable living booth that had free water bottles and literature about how Mines is trying to reduce waste and reuse a lot of stuff. We'd seen water bottle fillers in the hallways of the dorm, and it was fun to talk with them for a bit. They also had melting ice cream sandwiches, which John and Jet enjoyed.

It's a beautiful, newer campus, they've updated a lot of the oldest buildings, and there is an amazing student recreation center with all the workout stuff and an amazing outdoors coordination booth that has equipment for skiing, rock climbing, hiking with crampons on ice, and even camping as well as a scheduler for going on group activities with other students.

And when we'd wandered until there really wasn't anything more to see, we hugged him and let him go. I was suitably sad and happy and that whole mix of emotions that just happens with these big life events. So happy that he's able to tackle it all, and sad that he's out of my every day life.

So John and I went to the lavender farm at Chatfield Farms, which is owned by the Denver Botanical Gardens, we'd gotten HUGE storm cell with lightening rained out of the Lavender Festival there, and had vowed to go back. So we did and found that there was a lot more than just the lavender field in front.

Most of the park and garden is working farm for local farm to table restaurants. There are also a lot of venue spaces, a camp site in the back of the lake, and areas that have things like this botanical sculpture. It was all tree branches all tangled together. Intriguing, but definitely not all lavender. There was even a tiny butterfly tent that had a lot of moths, butterflies, and the stuff to feed and care for them. It was closed when we got there, but we wandered about in the sunshine and talked about how it was to leave Jet.

After getting back into the car, John got a call that he wisely didn't answer while driving, but he handed his phone to me to take a look. It was Jet, saying that he couldn't find his computer and was it still in the Eurovan? It wasn't.

He contacted his RAs immediately. His roommates were good support. They had an all-floor meeting that evening, and he asked about it there. It hadn't shown up in Elm. They all were leaving for camp on Tuesday morning and wouldn't be back until Thursday, when the rest of the students were moving in. And none of us really knew what could be done after the chaos of boxes, people, and all kinds of things that could happen. It was hard and both Jet and I were really sad about the loss while John was very determinedly optimistic about it showing up. So I did my best and minted the phrase, "He just hasn't found it yet." And tried to use that phrase whenever my brain came up with all kinds of awful things.

That night, Jet texted us to tell us he was going to sleep and that he loved us. We txted back and said we loved him and wished him a good night. That felt really good all around, I think.

I couldn't sleep that night (and later, Jet said that he had a really hard time sleeping that first night, too, because of the missing box) and at 5 am, I posted on the in-coming students' parents list about the situation, moderating my language consciously to make it non-accusatory. And they came up with a ton of experience about how the chaos of the move-in does lose a lot of stuff and all kinds of stories about how it gets found again. The most common thing that happens is that a volunteer just takes it to the wrong dorm (since MOST of the drop off areas went to more than one dorm) and sticks it into the room of someone who won't be there until Thursday.

So I waited.

And Jet found some connectivity in the mountains and texted to tell us he was having a great time, and I realized that that really was what was important. The computer could be replaced, things lost were just things lost, but the fact that he was creating relationships already was a very very good sign for how things would work for him at this school.

And when Thursday morning came and went and we got all the things Jet had discovered he might still like together and then left the house for the Convocation and we still hadn't heard word of him finding it, I was pretty down. So I put my "it's okay" face on and went with John to meet up with him. John dropped me and the new things off with Jet in the parking lot. Jet met me there and we hugged solidly and were quietly sad together for a bit, but kept going and walked up to his room to put away the things. When I told him that a lot of the parents had said the he should check out the Lost and Founds of the other dorms, he thought it was a great idea and hadn't known there was a Lost and Found. Lots and lots of people said, "Hi, Jet!" on the way in, which made me very happy. He seemed like it wasn't anything big, which I'm good with. *laughs*

He had to run off to a field with all the rest of the in-coming students, about 1300 freshman and 200 transfer students, as they were all going to have a class picture together. I joined John at the recreation center's basketball arena with all the other parents, and we waited for the Convocation to start.

"Convocation" is the assembling of a formal gathering, and so it was. The first time assembly of the Class of 2023 with their professors, staff, and parents as support. It was the opposite end of the university life than a graduation, but it had much of the same sort of organization. Lots of people in the School of Mines talking about what being there meant. I was pretty impressed that a lot of the talk was about how to fail well and learn from it.

The most impressive example of that was the professor who helped Adam Savage build a flying Iron Man suit from 3D-printed titanium. Especially since my favorite quote from Mythbusters is "Failure is Always An Option." So all the values on display, all the priorities were the ones I loved. A tough, technical school, with a lot to teach, but also the compassion to try and ease freshmen fears, and give the room to fail for a while before finding their feet, which I never really felt was the case at Caltech. The Caltech pre-frosh talk was "Look to your right, look to your left, one of you won't be at graduation." It really was a "if you can't take the heat, get out of this kitchen" kind of place. Here the emphasis was on that all the students had the support of the staff, the professors, and each other to lean on when things got tough. I'll admit I cried a little.

Afterwards was an okay BBQ with Buster the donkey hanging out for pictures with people, and after we ate, Jet decided it was the perfect time to try the other dorms' Lost and Founds. So, after asking if it was okay with him, we went with him.

The lady at the Maple front desk listened to him patiently and then said, "Oh, are you missing a printer?" And Jet started to explain that, no, it was a computer...

And John jumped in with, "It was a printer box. We packed your computer in an old printer box."

"Oh! Well, it was labelled Elm, so we sent it over to Elm. Check in their Lost and Found."

We thanked her profusely and I danced about on the way over and John said quellingly, "I'm not going to celebrate until we have our hands on it."

And Jet came over and hugged me and said, "Well, I'm going to celebrate with Mom." Which was all I needed to start crying. 😁 Luckily, Jet understood entirely.

We got back to Elm, and Jet asked at the front desk. At first the lady was confused and started looking in their Lost and Found drawer; but with more explanation, she went back into the back room and came out with Jet's box. That was probably the best I've felt in a while. Especially when both Jet and I looked and saw that the box was, indeed, labelled with his name, room number, dorm, and phone number. He and I high 5'd when he said, "We did label it."

When Jet had the box hugged to his body and we were going up the hallway toward his room, he said, "What I don't understand is why they didn't even try to call me." 

I don't know either, and it turned out that a mother had commented on my Facebook post about a printer that had been delivered to her daughter's room that didn't belong to them. She was upset she hadn't actually read the label on it, and could have found it for us earlier, and I felt better that she was upset and thanked her profusely. Which is such an interesting interaction to have. The connectivity of the Internet makes for some interesting situations.

Jet's roommate's parents were leaving as we were heading to his room, and they were so happy he'd found his computer, it was pretty heartwarming. They were back home to the East Coast, and so we wished them safe travels. Jet kept telling nearly everyone we met that he's found his box, so I got a much better idea of how much he'd gone out of his way to ask for help. I was very impressed.

And when we got back to his room he set the box in the middle of the room and just stared at it for a while. It was done. He now had everything he had hoped to have when this all started, and afterward, we were so tired and relieved, that we really couldn't think of much else to do. So he just walked us to our car, we all hugged thoroughly and said our good-byes. He ended with, "I'll see you later!"

And I replied, "Definitely." Which made him smile.

John and I went to Glacier Ice Cream in Boulder to celebrate after that. We have, indeed, launched him into his new, challenging world. And it's good. He's independent, self-motivated, and knows why he's there. It's a bit like Mission Control with the astronauts, we really can't DO anything, but we can talk him through things and remind him of his training, but he's the one that's got to do what he's got to do.