College Information Night


“But I’ve got homework.”

And please God, you’ll have a life well past these days of hogging my computer and leaving half-full glasses of lemonade all over my countertop.

I park the car and drag the tall dark innocent into the sweltering high school building swarming with smooth-skinned teenagers, representing hundreds of prescriptions of Retin-A and doxycycline. We waltz past tables manned by suits and loaded down with pamphlets. Join the army? The marines? Sail the maritime academy? I’d like to see my lazy landlubber on board a vessel, expected to heave to.

His friend wanders by, a boy math wizard with a head of dark curls, zeroing in on the Princeton table. He never had time to come over and play with my kid in grammar school, and I’m sure he’ll have a bright and fully scheduled future in the Ivy League.

A hunch of skinny shoulders, a bewildered look, and a palms up on my kid. “Uh, where do I– I don’t know—” That same painful, almost tearful, look as the time he was five and had a choice of Seven-Up and Coke at a birthday party, but couldn’t choose one because he’d never tasted either. My fault.

I say, “Follow him,” meaning the math wizard, and get a teenage glare. Monkey see, monkey do isn’t working. Was I supposed to prep for this?

I spy Linda with her Randall. “Where are you guys looking?”

“Don’t you have the book?” she says, “The big, fat book of colleges? No? Me neither. I got this one.” She taps a small, chunky tome. I glance inside. Where is Rutgers? Rice? Renssalaer Polytechnic? How much does Harvey Mudd cost? Does Cal Poly take students with B’s on their transcripts? How about Dartmouth? Could Mr. Lemonade Glass survive in frigid New Hampshire? It nearly killed his father.

This kid, who ran off without a backwards glance on his first day of pre-school at twelve months, is now glued to my side in the eager, buzzing, hot crowd. He’s not interested in any name or concept shouted out on the Ivy League labels. He’s at sea without a paddle or a maritime degree, trying to envision himself freed from high school drudgery and off onto his own chosen path of study. Or trying not to. The kid who can create wizard warriors galore in online games can’t imagine his size thirteens parked anywhere but in our closet. Then neither can I. After all, the high school junior can’t drive yet. He’s got no idea of setting himself a bedtime, and must still be cued to get up barely in time to make it to school. He forgets to eat if you let him.

The place is emptying out now. We cruise the rows of tables and I gather a few pamphlets and hand them to the man-child, who follows as obediently as my sun hat. He’ll leave the papers in the car when we get home and head straight for the computer and its magical, musical multitude of bloody strategy games.

Finally, I give up and we go home, where the prerequisites are a username and password, and the only tuition is the quarter docked from your allowance for forgetting to wash the three half-full lemonade glasses on the countertop.

One response »

  1. I remember my college information night. My mother would walk up to each person and tell them what she had picked out for my career. It was an embarrassment. I’d have much preferred to have gone with you there :-). Leaves me to wonder how Jaq will react.

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