Family & Friends

Letters to My Younger Self: ‘Entering Susan in College’ — Love, Mom, 1972

This summer, I finally went through my mother’s old papers. She was diagnosed with Burkitt Lymphoma in February of 2010 and died two weeks later at 81. The fastest growing human tumor spared my mother much suffering, but offered me no time to say goodbye. There was no transition period. My mother’s passing was in keeping with her desire not to be a burden to her family.  I packed up her apartment, gave away her furniture, and moved her photos, keepsakes, and papers to my basement.  

To my surprise, her papers contained carbon copies of letters that she often wrote. What an amazing gift for me to find. I discovered one particular letter she wrote after delivering me to my college campus in 1972.  At the time, my mother was 42 and I was the oldest of her three children, her first she saw off to college. The letter is typewritten on onion skin paper and dotted with white out.  She never mailed it. 

In the age of email, this letter is a time capsule that I treasure. My mother’s handwritten note at the top of the page “Entering Susan in College” sends a rush of nostalgia as I am reminded of her perfect penmanship and frequent communications.  My college friends were in awe of her beautiful cursive writing and perfectly measured lines.

Click image to enlarge letter.

UntitledThe 1972 letter from the author’s mother. (Photo courtesy of Susan Fier)

How many of us can empathize when parting with our (almost) adult children for the first year of college?  My relationship with my mother at the time was fairly typical for an 18 year old. Although I treated her with respect, I secretly felt superior to her and that I knew all the answers. Not until I was older could I see that she created an atmosphere that encouraged me to be independent.  And, I never looked back after she launched me into adulthood. It is especially touching to see her letter now, instead of then, because I can appreciate it more as a parent.

In 2007, I took my own daughter, Joanna, to college. I reminisced about my college days with her roommate’s mother as I struggled to put sheets on a bunk bed. We later met some of Jo’s volleyball teammates and I knew that she had plenty to occupy her in her new world. And then Jo’s Dad and I left swiftly to avoid any tears (on our part) and lingering goodbyes.

I realized that parents can make separation and independence easy or difficult for their children.  Thanks to my mom and her letters, I think I did come through with flying colors!

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  • ELyse LAzansky September 14, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    OH this blog post brought tears to my eyes from both laughing and crying! I am smiling remembering my own drop off in 1978 also at a womens college, and fresh in my mind is the drop off of my oldest daughter two weeks ago. I am oiff to write her a letter she will find years from now and remember that day. Thank you, Sue for the memories and the inspiration!

  • Pamela Colbert August 29, 2016 at 6:56 pm

    Ok, well the last few paragraphs broke me. Just teared up. I graduated high school in 1975 and my parents could have written this letter. I had to drop out and finish as a FP scholar due my Dad’s death in 1978 and various family illnesses but I remember walking into the bank with my parents while they spoke to the bank manager, the rollers and hair dryer the packing and unpacking my things. At 59 these are treasured memories. A different life. My mother had perfect handwriting also. Love MHC just love it! More now then I did then admittedly. Thank you for sharing this wonderful letter from your Mom. Will go into my MHC scrapbook.

  • Audrey Yatras August 26, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    I remembered being dropped off at college in the fall of 1972 also. My mother was worried about leaving me since I was shy. She walked down the hallway until she found another freshman and dragged her into my room to meet me. Fortunately, Mona and I did become friends and have remained friends since that awkward introduction.

  • Nancy Perez August 26, 2016 at 10:21 am

    I’m a lucky one who actually knew Sue’s mother and was one of her friends in awe of Mrs. Sander’s handwriting as well as the fact that she was a stickler on grammar! I can only hope she wasn’t referring to me with her comments about our clothes…ugh…now all I want to do is to remember what I wore the first day of college. Thanks for sharing, Sue. I’ve finally stopped crying long enough to hit send!

  • Billie August 26, 2016 at 10:10 am

    This is beautifully written on both mother and daughters parts.

    Thank you for sharing this priceless letter.

    I hope to see more of your articles.

  • Andrea August 26, 2016 at 9:18 am

    Thanks for sharing your memories! Your mothers’ perfect penmanship was particularly poignant for me! Text messages will not have the same meaning I’m afraid!!