I have just returned home from a lovely three-day road trip to the New England area. The event was an open house at the college my younger son (previously and hereinafter referred to as The Nestling) will be attending in the fall. What made the occasion extra special for me is that it is also the college I attended; he will graduate thirty years after I did.
The weather was glorious and the traffic was light. The half-way point was a lovely diner with a menu leaning towards Greek but with all the usual greasy-spoon staples done up just right. The Nestling and I share tastes in conversation and music, so the CD case was packed with mutual favorites, paused frequently for assorted commentary. My laryngitis is still trying to hang on so, after singing along with the sound track from Wicked, two of the three discs from The Remains of Tom Lehrer, as well as Don McLean and others, my speaking voice was hoarse again. Worth it, though.
The campus was recognizable, even with some old buildings gone and several new ones in unfamiliar places altering the landscape without ruining it. The official presentations were boring as hell, but one of them (the parents' forum) was held in the actual gymnasium in which I had received my diploma twenty-six years ago. During the buffet luncheon (what my father likes to call "courteous and efficient self-service") I tried to locate the pre-health advising staff, planning to offer myself as a resource to the pre-meds to infect them with the passion of primary care before they get to medical school and have it ridiculed out of them. (No, the Nestling has no interest whatsoever in medicine.) I settled for leaving my card with one of the higher-ups, while the Nestling finished his lunch at a table full of kids he had met on Facebook.
After lunch we made our way to one of the classes that was open to the "pre-frosh" visitors. We chose Introduction to Biochemistry for two reasons: it is the Nestling's intended major, and it was being held in the classroom where I took my very first college class, which happened to be Inorganic Chemistry. We met up with another parent/nestling pair on the way over, so the kids sat together while the other parent and I selected seats a small distance away. Unfortunately the actual professor was out of town, but the class was taught by a perfectly competent grad student. The topic was something the Nestling happened to be having some trouble with in one of his high school classes at the moment, and afterwards he went down to thank the teacher for helping him finally "get it."
Because the rest of the official forums and sessions looked dull, we wandered instead. While the Nestling went to get his bag out of the car and stow it with the luggage of all the other kids planning to spend the night with accommodating students, I perused the bookstore, which had been moved from its old location. Finally we met up on a wide expanse of lawn outside the new student center. The Nestling spotted a group of guys throwing a frisbee around and headed over to join them while I sat and read the irreverent gag newspaper. I later sent the writers a two-line email:
You guys are seriously disturbed.The final official event of the day was a choice of "Master Classes;" lectures in various disciplines provided specifically for the prospective students. The Nestling and I were torn between two of them, based on their titles alone:
Keep up the good work.
- The Forensics of Human Sacrifice
- Channelopathies: When Good Membrane Proteins Go Bad
What a cool talk! Given by a full Professor of Biochemistry who had apparently been there when I was (though I didn't remember him at all; I was straight Biology) it was as accessible to the bright high school seniors who were there as it was fascinating to me. The computer graphics showing membrane proteins alone were mind-boggling!
The next day we were on our own. This time I led the way up to the area of the campus where I had spent most of my time; the quad where I had lived three of my four years; the campus pub; the student center where the bookstore used to be, and to the mailroom where I quickly found my old mailbox. (Force of habit: walking into that building, my feet were on auto-pilot.) This part of campus hadn't changed as much, and the nostalgia was as warm as the sun that finally deigned to emerge. We settled on a grassy knoll under the statue of the University namesake and chatted with a pair of students who were likewise enjoying the sun. Amazingly, the Nestling wasn't radiating the violent rays of anti-parent embarrassment virtually endemic to adolescence. In fact, he was the one who mentioned my alumni status. He seemed to actually enjoy my company.
After another stop in the bookstore for the obligatory purchases (sweatshirt with the college name for him; t-shirts for Darling Spouse and myself; decals for the cars) we drove north to spend some time with my brother.
My brother is also a doc, but in a specialty that renders most of his clinical experience and essentially all of his administrative issues completely irrelevant to mine. He had recently moved to a new office and had to wait while an alarm system was installed. Fortunately the Nestling had brought along a deck of cards, so we whiled away the time pleasantly enough. By the time he had whupped me at a game of Rummy 500, my brother was ready to go. After a delicious dinner of Tequila-Cilantro-Lime Scallops over rice pilaf followed by homemade ginger ice cream for dessert, we headed back up to his house. His wife and daughters were away so we didn't get to visit with them, but my brother took the Nestling for a ride on the back of his motorcycle that evening and again the next morning when we went out for breakfast at a charming little haunted tavern on the edge of a hand-dug manmade lake. So New England!
The ride home was a repeat of the journey up. We played almost all of the rest of the CDs in the case, and stopped for a meal at the same Greek diner. I even bought an enormous loaf of the sweetest challah I've ever tasted, to share with Darling Spouse.
Although I was only out of the office for two working days, I find myself tremendously refreshed mentally as well as physically. There was a schedule, but not one so rigid as to compromise that wonderful relaxation. The kid had a good time; I had a good time. The Nestling is on track to have a wonderful college experience. For today at least, life is good.