Editor’s Note: The Family in the Van

Editor-in-chief Liz Vaccariello reminisces about the big move to her freshman-year dorm.

Steve Vaccariello for Reader's DigestThe 180-mile drive from home to the University of Michigan was the most difficult journey of my life. I remember our Chevy van stuffed with pillows, comforters, and bags of hair products from Bernie Shulman’s. And I can still feel the knot of despair (leaving the boyfriend!) and doubt (could I cut it academically?) that twisted in my stomach. We were quiet as my dad drove along I-80, stealing tentative smiles in the rearview mirror while Mom underlined interesting classes for me to consider in the well-thumbed course guide.

I think of the vans pulling out of driveways this August, and I know the pride, hope, and even uncertainty that fill them.

In his essay “Unprepared,” Rob Lowe draws a beautiful picture of his family as they pack and take their older son to school. I love this piece because the Lowes’ plane trip took me back to my own anguished van ride, and I could appreciate the different ways my parents treated the transition. Mom sent me off with a hearty hug and a huge smile, certain I had all the traits and toiletries I needed. Dad misted up, then mailed me a letter every other day that first semester.

I didn’t know it when my family’s van pulled away from South Quad and left me to the next chapter of my life, but thanks to everything they’d done in raising me and getting me to this milestone, I was indeed prepared.

—Liz, @LizVacc[email protected]

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