…. on a college search meant to be



So, you know those kids? Checklist kids? The kids who had their future community service, sports, leadership and grade point averages in neat bullet points on the back of their birth certificates?

Those kids?

We don’t have any of those.

That would take way too much thought and planning and work on our part.

Plus, we really weren’t up to finding the right Olympic training or SAT coach when they were, likethree.

Why am I thinking about these things… again?

It’s time to start the college search with the Self-Proclaimed Perfect Boy Gabe.

We’ve been down this road before, twice. And I know that, right about now, nervous parents of kids his age are buying up all kinds of books, and reading all sorts of articles, and are glued to all kinds of TV news reports about how competitive college admission is and how there was this kid who had a 4.8 GPA who applied to twelve schools and got rejected by all of them.


But we don’t do it that way.

I remember walking over to Mac when she was this age, putting a hand on each shoulder of my nervous about-to-be college searcher with smart (smaHt) and competitive students and parents all around her every day, and asking her to make a deal with me. That this whole thing, this whole college search process, was going to be – gasp – fun.

And we pinky swore it would be fun and made a list based on who she was and what she wanted in a school, and did some research and hit the road.

Things I remember about Mac’s college search process?

  • The Zac Ephron movie that we saw in Cedar Rapids Iowa because the leader of our college tour that day made the school look about as appetizing as a hot dog dropped in sand.
  • The snotty ex-president of a sorority, at a university she made feel snotty, somewhere in South Carolina.  She made it clear that giving a tour was beneath her and punctuated that sentiment with four-inch heels (clearly designed for touring) and about a quarter-inch of make-up on her face, which melted a bit in the 100+ degree, humid summer day. This school was not for Mac. Not remotely “her” or “us”. But the visit was great! My favorite parts?
    • when we got to this sunken garden and Miss ex-sorority president (she kept reminding us of her sororit-al connections) told us that this garden was donated by an alumnus. Mac turned to me and whispered, “This is where I would come to hide” (I snorted).
    • when we were in a building, having tried to figure out how to ditch the tour and head to a cute little town nearby for lunch and window shopping, and we ended up in front of the school store. The school’s name began with the letter “F”. So our not-even-remotely-helpful tour guide said, and I am not kidding here, “You can get just about anything that said “FU” right here in this store.” Yep. Mac and I could barely contain ourselves and the girl gave us the most withering glare. Super funny. We practically ran out of that admin hall after the tour. (The wings and window shopping in the little town were fabulous by the way).

Things I remember fondly about Sam’s search (which involved a lot of music)?

  • On the trip that John and he took, they had a goal of at least one pub burger (a burger acquired and eaten in any pub or bar) per day, with a vote on ‘best pub burger of the trip’ at the end. When I asked which one won, neither could remember.
  • Staying at the Ritz Carlton at Battery Park in New York because John had points and it was the only hotel that had last-minute rooms close to his audition in Greenwich Village. A ‘butler’ escorted us to our room. Sam and I were trying not to giggle the entire way up. When the man left our teeny room, after giving us a ‘tour’ (he called it that), we died and couldn’t stop riffing on the whole idea. Sam: “Did he think I would not be able to find the closet?” Me: “Oh, there’s the shower!”. One of the best tours I’ve ever taken.
  • Sam ‘planking’ on several horizontal surfaces in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton Hotel. Me taking pictures. Staff trying to be professional but laughing anyway.
sam planking

Photographic proof: Sam planking in lobby of Ritz Carlton. (And of course we’d already been to the Disney Store downtown… duh.)

And now, it’s Gabe’s turn.

Who knows what stories we will discover on his journey to find the place he wants to be for college?

Gabe loves sports, and he wants to play soccer in college.  So this search is a bit different because he is looking at sports programs and then I’m looking at the school in general – based on what he’s looking for (He’s sixteen. His list so far has to do with school size, and sports fan enthusiasm). Also I’m checking out – you know for the hell of it – the science-y stuff that he likes. Gabe’s kicking around how far away from home he wants to be. John is checking the airports near the schools he circles to see what airlines fly into them, because he wants to make sure he can go to some of the games if Gabe plays. I’m also gearing up for the trips and the tours and the possible trouble we can get in along the way.

And I’m also realizing this is my last at-bat with this college thing.

And it is wHierdly exciting and bitter and sweet at the same time.

I have loved each stage of being a parent more than the last one. Each stage of being really, has been better than the last. And I am completely convinced this will continue.

But sometimes I have to pause, and appreciate the big picture. And make connections, not always obvious in the every day.

Gabe totally surprised us with his appearance on the Dingle scene 16 years ago. At that time, John and I were laughing and lamenting that we were beyond diapers and high chairs and a house full of brightly colored molded plastic (BCMP), and here we were doing it all over again (wHoops!).

But now? Now Gabe has allowed us to enjoy four more years of this high school thing, and his being here – with us, on this planet – has allowed an easing off of the parental gas pedal, rather than a hard braking.

Which is pretty cool. I’d love to say I planned it that way (the Nearly Perfect Husband probably will claim that).

But me?

I’m having a quiet little moment, and realizing that, once again something I thought would introduce chaos to my world, brought with it some of the most amazing and meaningful and treasured experiences of my life.


Thank for readin’.

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