"Do you have note cards? A flash drive? Pencils? Socks? Enough blankets? Enough to eat?"
All summer I have been plaguing my baby sister with questions about what she's taking to college. And just like that, I turned around and she was already off to Cal State Channel Islands.
Quite a few tears were shed in El Ranchito's parking lot the day we said goodbye. I'm not sure who took it harder — her, Mom or me — but I am glad my family was able to visit for a couple days before she headed out.
Being eight years and a few months apart, I've been like a second mom to my sister. She would agree, considering the giggles that came out of her when she opened the "Congrats Daughter!" card I gave her at her high school graduation.
After her big day in June, she stayed with me for two weeks. Just two weeks.
Two weeks to pack in all my wisdom. Two weeks to prepare her for life outside the Owens Valley, in the real world, where anything can happen.
Time is never on my side. No matter how hard I try, I just can't fit everything in.
We talked about clothes, shopping, boys, food and, most importantly, careers. She wants to be a nurse or a teacher. I told her to do what will make her happy, to be challenged and not let anyone else tell her she couldn't achieve her dreams.
OK, so I sounded like a greeting card, but those are life lessons no one tells you about. Sure, people might say those things, but do they ever give you examples from their own lives? Yeah, I didn't think so.
My sister knows that despite not being incredibly rich, I love journalism, that I am constantly challenged by the people I choose to surround myself with, and that I never once let anyone tell me I couldn't write, design or edit. She's watched me struggle to come into my own.
"I know you've been through this," she said. "That's why I ask for your advice."
While I know she has a good head on her shoulders, I can't help but wake up in the middle of the night, worrying she'll get caught up with the wrong people, because, frankly, we don't know many people in Camarillo.
"But she already knows other students and it's only two hours away," I rationalize to myself. It gives some measure of comfort.
This must be but a fraction of the agony, joy and pride that goes through any mother whose child is moving out and growing up. But I wonder: Is it as traumatizing for children who grow up in large metropolitan areas?
Bishop kids like us have to leave the Owens Valley to go to school. You can't just stay at home while getting a bachelor's degree. Your options are a tiny community college or going straight into the workforce.
Then again, kids are more connected today than they ever were before.
As we said our goodbyes, I reminded my sister that I didn't have a computer, cell phone or car when I headed off to my first attempt at higher education (sorry, UC Santa Cruz, you were pretty, but ultimately we weren't a good match). I also pointed out that we didn't have no darned Starbucks when I was a kid, which elicited one of her famous giggles.
When I think about it, my second attempt (Go Beach!) included a cell phone and a car, but my phone only made calls. I didn't even know what text messaging was yet.
On Tuesday I took a tour of my sister's dorm room, met her roommates and some "cute boys from down the hall" — all thanks to Skype. Oh, what modern marvels we have.
My sister will be fine. I'll eventually get over the shock of her being 18 and on her own — in about five years when I'll be preparing to deal with her getting married.
Darn kids. They just grow up too fast.
Web Editor JAMIE ROWE can be reached at (714) 966-4634 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Squee says, "Go, Dolphins!"