Moving Day

red letter dayIt’s odd how the most important moments in our lives are marked. It’s not so much by the grand pageantry of big events, but rather the small details that define our daily circumstances. We just don’t know it at the time. The little moments happen, building a collection of days and weeks that gradually mounts, moving us along until one day we look around and notice we’re no longer standing where we used to be. 

As expected, moving day on campus was a flurry of activity. Anxious parents, faces wrought with concern, clucked and fussed over their newly-minted “adult” children while those same children worked to acquaint themselves with their new surroundings. Hard as it was to wrap my mind around it — my nephew was part of this new batch of freshmen at Ohio State. An avalanche of applications, test scores and campus visits now behind him, he met his roommates and unpacked his modest supply of dorm stuff. Class schedule in hand, he seemed set for this monumental First Day of the Rest of His Life. 

Although I’m not his mother, an odd mix of emotions washed over me after we said our goodbyes. As I stood, squinting in the sunlight, watching his broad, grown-up shoulders fade and disappear into the darkness of the dormitory, feelings of pride, nervousness, nostalgia and sadness ran together in a silent churning sea of sentiment. The day he was born naturally leapt to mind alongside flickering memories of massive Lego builds, movie nights, school plays, sporting events and spontaneous trips to McDonalds. 

I felt a smile tug on the corners of my mouth when I recalled the time, just before he left for camp, when he gobbled three cheeseburgers I was sure he’d never finish. The the hot sting of tears followed quickly after the realization that he was no longer that little boy on his way to summer camp and cheeseburgers no longer an effective currency for affection. 

As we drove away I glanced out the window, noticing hundreds of bright-eyed coeds walking and laughing as they unloaded boxes or rested in slanted rays of sun on late-summer lawns — I felt emotion rise up in me once more. Only this time I recognized it for what it was: a beginning. It is the time when everything is shiny and new and the world rolls out in front of you like a warm and welcome ribbon of highway. It was at that moment—that little moment—that I knew it wasn’t the goodbye that was taunting me. No, caught instead in the corners of my mind… was the quiet turning of the page. 

The Non-Traditional Student: Lessons In Irony

EPSON scanner imageAs a “traditional co-ed”—i.e. someone who enters college in the same calendar year that he or she finished high-school—I thought I was so cool walking to the art building in my oversized flannel shirt and shredded jeans while listening to Pearl Jam on my headphones. Yes sir, in the mid-nineties, grunge was in and being between the ages of 18 to 22 was even more so.

The “non-traditional” students were a phenomenon my friends and I could not wrap our heads around. Thus, we enjoyed making fun of them. We thought they were musty, crusty and old and we wondered why in the world they would CHOOSE to put their ancient, arthritic asses on the hard wooden seats in the same stifling lecture halls that WE had no choice but to drag our hung-over selves to at the ungodly hour of 11 a.m.

I mean, they had jobs and houses and families and cars and probably unpronounceable medical conditions and doctor’s appointments for crying out loud! Why did they feel the need to spend their “spare time” with us intentionally exposing themselves to the likes of English Comp, Abnormal Psych or the Geologic History of the Dinosaurs?

I remember at the start of each new semester taking a passing glance around my new classes, trying to get an overview of my fellow attendees while simultaneously looking for hot guys. And each time my gaze got snagged on someone sporting a fanny pack or grey hair, I would roll my eyes in bitter disgust, groaning and dying a little bit more inside. I would be stuck with the know-it-all geriatrics for the better part of five months.

It was incomprehensible. And it was annoying. Because fifty bucks said they were always going to have the answers FOR EVERYTHING. And another fifty said they’d have a nice long-winded story to accompany said answer. AND they asked a TON of questions. It was excruciating. The only saving grace was the possibility that I’d be paired up with one of them for the final class project — since they had, in fact, roamed the earth WITH the very same dinosaurs we were studying. I bet they had some real side-splitters about that ornery, ‘ole Velociraptor.

Imagine now, if you can, the calendar pages flying as I invite you to travel with me briskly into the future to a new chapter called “Irony’s a Bitch” … or “Getting What You Deserve” … or “Here’s To Me and MY Arthritic Ass” … whichever title you like best, go with it. The point is that since I’ve enrolled in a course at a local college of art and design, the irony is not lost on me that I have become the very butt of my own joke. I am the punch line. I am the “non-traditional” student.

I am the one with the answers and the long-winded story to accompany them. I am the one staying after class to ask the professor “one more question” in order to “get my money’s worth.” Yes, I have a job and a house and a family and a car and the pharmacy on speed dial AND I just happened to have a doctor’s appointment this very morning…

But I implore you, Dear Beautiful Young Blonde Coed Who Sits Beside Me With The Bright Red Lipstick and Super Trendy Glasses Looking Stunning Even Though You Are Totally Hung Over… please try to forgive me when I launch into a lengthy story about my recent vacation and the amazing architecture, rich history and Spanish moss of Savannah… For I—the non-traditional student (sans fanny pack and grey hair, of course)—am NOT too old to learn stuff too.