I am writing this post from a back row seat on the Van Galder bus (surprisingly swank, internet and all) as I return from my 25th college reunion in Chicago. And yes, I am very glad I went. It felt surprisingly terrific to be back on campus after all these years and check out everything that was different-a fancy new library, a state-of-the-art arts facility, and a gym equipped to train an athlete in just about any Olympic sport.
I also loved being able to revisit the familiar, like having a beer (okay, a couple) in the just-off campus bar where I spent an embarrassing number of hours playing quarters my junior and senior year. And I enjoyed savoring a mocha in the same coffee shop where I'd spent perhaps even more hours drinking regular coffee (I'm not sure mochas had been invented yet) while attempting to negate the effects of "losing" (maybe it was winning?) the drinking game.
But there is no question, the highlight of the reunion this past weekend was attending the official Class of '88 party and catching up with folks -- many close friends, others merely acquaintances and a handful, I'm pretty sure, I'd never before seen in my life--for even just a brief hug. We reminisced about "sleeping out" on the quads in order to be first in line to sign up for classes; these were the days long before on-line registration. We recalled elaborate pranks pulled our freshman year that involved mayonnaise and under garments (don't ask). Most of us could still recall the music we danced to (Frankie Goes to Hollywood, anyone?) on sticky floors at fraternity houses that should have been condemned at the time and are, remarkably enough, still standing.
And while chatting it up with my classmates it struck me why everyone makes such a big deal about the 25th reunion.
Most of us in that room, now in our late 40s, weren't just our same old selves but a little grayer and in need of reading glasses. We were also parents. And is true of so many parents pushing 50, we have kids that are just beginning the journey of choosing a college.
My oldest is sixteen, and assuming all goes according to plan with finals this week, will be a junior in high school next fall. He's entering the year of ACT vs. SAT or both. He needs to start thinking about big schools vs. small schools and urban vs. self-contained campuses. He needs to consider whether he wants to be able to easily come home for an occasional weekend (for hopefully more than just laundry) or whether this is his big chance to explore another part of the country.
As a parent, guiding your child through this process can be absolutely crazy-making. And I've made a promise I will try not to get too wrapped up in the applying-to-college hoopla. There are lots of great choices out there, I remind myself. Don't make this into something bigger than it needs to be.
But this weekend was a reminder that this decision really matters. And not just from an intellectual development or career potential standpoint.
Because while standing there with some of my dearest friends in the world, many that I met the very first week of my freshman year, I realized that in two short years my son will likely be moving onto a dorm floor and meeting the people he will still be laughing, crying and dancing with over 25 years later.
So I guess it's time to jump in to the zaniness. Discussions of college tours, prep classes and "Reach", "Match" and "Safety" schools" are sure to come.
But if I get too caught up, please, in the immortal words of Frankie (the one of "Goes to Hollywood" fame), remind me to, at least occasionally, "Relax."
Or maybe take me out for a game of quarters.comments powered by Disqus
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (Near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.
The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.
Last week, for the first time, I made my way up to one of the open gallery nights during Madison West's Fine Arts Week, the school's annual showcase for all things creative. The scope of the event is huge, with nearly 1,600 students participating, and the quality of the presented works is phenomenal. It's almost as if the school had been lifted off its perch on Regent Street and traveled back in time to Belle Époque Paris.
If you have aspiring authors in your house, this summer offers a fabulous opportunity for them refine their writing skills. For its second summer, the Greater Madison Writing Project, in partnership with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, is sponsoring two week-long camps in August for young writers entering grades 3-8.
There are lots of benefits to living in a college town. First and foremost, there is always something going on -- a lecture, a film series. Maybe even a protest, if you're lucky. And since becoming a Madisonian, I, for the first time in my life, find myself interested in college football.