Chapter Five, The Mother Son College Odyssey

Stomach flu has struck. One girl was down, throwing up all day yesterday. This morning it’s another. How many more will drop like flies?

It’s raining out. This morning the kids are performing at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, eating lunch at Whole Foods and then heading to my favorite place in New York City, the Museum of Natural History. I feel as if I grew up in that Museum, staring up at the huge brontosaurus, t-rex, and triceratops bones. But I volunteered to stay back with the sick girl this morning. I don’t know her yet, but I guess this will be my opportunity. How hard to be violently ill on a school trip, in a strange city, stuck vomiting in a hotel room. I’ll do my best to keep her comfortable.

What I really want to do is go back to sleep.

Every morning when I look at my face in the mirror, the bags under my eyes are growing. Down time is not part of this trip!  I think that’s probably good for bunch of teenagers. But all of us chaperones are looking more tired with each passing day.

I am continually wowed by Drew’s careful attention and skill at organizing such a massive trip—figuring out where to take 32 people to eat, how to expose a group of eager, receptive young people to the greatest variety of experiences, how much time to allow for transportation between things, figuring out where things are in relation to the subway lines. The details are endless and incredibly well executed. I know how much work it took to arrange my trip with Eli visiting colleges—and that was just for the two of us. This is for 32!

Each day is varied and fun. Yesterday, we spent the morning at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Afternoon we were on our own. I took Eli and a small pod of other theatre-loving kids across three subways back to Times Square to see if we could score some tickets for the supposedly sold-out Sunday matinee of Billy Elliot. We went up to the box office and scored five Orchestra seats in row three, four and five. They were incredible. Billy Elliot was a great show. Some of the subtleties of movie were lost on the Broadway stage, where everything is dumbed down and larger than life, but the essential story was compelling and well-told. The dancing was phenomenal and the boy who played young Billy (one of four who take the role in rotation) was a very gifted young dancer. The kids loved the show and danced down the street afterwards.

As soon as we got out, they texted their friends about how awesome the show was. It’s quite amazing to watch them all, in constant communication with each other through their phones, navigating through the City like pros because of the moblile GPS units embedded in their cell phones.

We met the others in Strawberry Fields, the John Lennon memorial in Central Park, then walked through the park to the Wollner Ice Skating rink where they skated. I watched and met with my old friend, Roberta. We caught up while the kids found their legs.

Then it was two subways back downtown all the way to Canal Street and a walk into Chinatown for dinner (the best garlic eggplant I’ve had in a long time) and Chinese ice cream (I had ginger). We didn’t get back to the hotel from dinner until 11 at night. That’s what I mean—the fun never stops!

Last night at midnight, I started looking over our day tomorrow, when Eli and I split off from the group and head over to Columbia for our first college tour, then rent a car and drive to Philadelphia. There are several other families doing what we’re doing—some other juniors who are looking at schools for the first time and some seniors who are using this time to visit the schools they’ve gotten into so they can decide where to go next year.

All week, there have been tears and excitement as the seniors have receive emails from the colleges on their phones—accepted here, rejected there, waitlisted at two more. It’s quite a roller coaster for all of them as the waves of news make it through the group. And that will be Eli next year…waiting, waiting, waiting…to hear.

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