Chapter Eighteen, The Mother Son College Odyssey

I set the alarm for 5:30 this morning. Went to bed after midnight. We were careful to quietly organize our things and bring our giant suitcases downstairs. But then I realized I didn’t have the car keys. I took everything out of my purse twice. Then a third time. I looked in the car. I went upstairs and searched the room–even though I really hadn’t unpacked anything. I tore up the bed. I searched the bathroom. Charlotte woke up and she started searching. She woke up her brother and he checked his pockets. Charlotte searched her purse.

Then Eli reached in his pocket and announced, “I have the keys!’ He’s unloaded the trunk of the car and never given them back to me.

On the way to the airport I started humming. This isn’t unusual. It’s a trait passed down from my father to me to Eli and Lizzy–randomly humming or even breaking into song without realizing it consciously. The odd thing is I was humming God Bless America. Before I knew it, I was juggling the organic date scone I bought at Whole Foods and belting out, “God Bless America, Land That I Love….” Pretty soon, Eli was humming it, too.

Then I asked Eli what he’d learned on the trip. “Well, I learned that you had groupies.”

“What else did you learn?”

“I learned that I want to go to Olin.”

“What else did you learn?”

“I learned that I don’t really like urban schools.”

“What else?”

“I don’t know.”

“I have some ideas. I think you learned you can do the work.”

“Yeah, I was a little worried about that. I’m not worried any more.”

“You learned that you don’t want to go to a school that doesn’t have an engineering department. And that no school is too small for you.”

“I think I knew that before.”

“And can a school be too big?”

“No, I don’t think so. Classes can be too big, but not a school.”

“How about whether or not a school has liberal arts requirements?”

“I’m not really sure about that.”

“And I learned that you really do know how to interact and be social with adults–when you want to. I really loved going on this trip with you, Eli.”

When we got to the airport, we turned into the area marked for Rental Car Return. There were huge signs for Hertz and Avis and Alamo, but no signs for Budget Rent a Car. We passed the others and ended up in a dead end. “I guess this is why they call it Budget Rent a Car,” I said.

We had to ask in three places before we got directions to go down to another light and make two right turns. Finally, we found it, checked out, lugged our stuff into the shuttle bus and made our way into the terminal. We discovered there that because I was an American Gold Advantage member, we didn’t have to pay for our overweight luggage. And despite the delays, we got here in plenty of time.

I got up to buy a chai and noticed a shoe shine stand. I’m wearing my Uggs that have leather on the bottom and they’re badly scuffed, so I climbed up into the stand for a shoeshine. A young African American man, very clean cut with a pressed shirt and tie came over to spiff up my shoes. “What do you do when you’re not shining shoes?” I asked.

“I’m a student at Northeastern,” he said.

“What do you study?”

“Computer science.”

“Do you like it?”

“Yeah, I really love it. I’m a single dad and I’m trying to get ahead.”

And then we proceeded to have a lovely conversation about colleges, and choice and Northeastern. And when he was done, my Uggs looked terrific and I gave him a twelve dollar tip. I think there are no coincidences in this world.

Now we’re parked in the lounge waiting for the last leg of our trip. Oh, and for any of you reading who are actually in the process of looking at colleges, I have one last suggestion, a great website I discovered last night: It’s full of accounts from students about their schools. When I read about the schools we’d visited, the accounts were spot on accurate, very vivid and realistic. It’s a great resource–almost as good as walking on campus.

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