Cold rain falls in the river, flows down to the sea, gets into the skyline, circles endlessly. Same old rain on the wind, same old pain in my soul.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I found myself at college the other day. If this sounds vague, it’s because I found myself once again merely a spectator to another’s dance. My Son will be starting his freshman year in August and this was the orientation. His orientation. A day for testing, getting to know and of belonging- or at least the beginning of a belonging. My day for such initiations and the opportunity for such had long since past. Or so I thought.
There wasn’t much for parents to do but beam and pat, if you’re the beam and pat type, which I’m not. So I watched, and wondered at my own chances gone by.
I watched a young girl who seemed only sixteen at most, but who bounced her two-year old child on her knee as only a mother can do as she listened to the speaker. I talked with her. I played with her son and he with my keys. I liked them both. God how I pray and hope for these two so now alone in the universe and trying to find a way beyond the entrapment of statistics.
I watched the other usual suspects with a lifted brow. The slouching beats that know their way around Gears Of War but can they navigate chemistry? The Heather type who can carry the homecoming dance but can she charm calculus? The chubby kid with the math t-shirt who finally feels beyond the torture of those that cannot follow him here. He hopes.
You see, this is not your typical kegger college. Those that come here come because they want to learn and need a way. Only eighteen percent of applicants got in and those that do are poor and get a free ride. Yep, no one here pays tuition and they’re not gonna waste it on Beevis and Butthead. The kegger college is ten miles up the road. I know because that’s where I went during a break to load up at the liquor warehouse.
But I also came across someone I didn’t expect to find among the usual lot. She graduated from high school in 1980. Got married, moved a lot, had kids, got divorced and in between, spent thirty years in retail. She now was a manager at Wal-Mart. She pushed her daughter (hard, maybe too so) to come to this college and said daughter did, with a lift from her 28 on the ACT. But after one year, Lover boy came along and college seemed so unnecessary and so time consuming. Mom could only feel sick as she watched history repeat itself.
So Mom, with help from ACT for dummies, thought she might rewrite a small piece of history herself. Now here she was, having to quit her job and sell her house and going off to college. Psychology she thinks, but she’s not sure. Said daughter couldn’t believe dumb old mom could get a 25 on the ACT’s or would have the guts to do anything about it.
Mom, because I never learned her name though she wore a tag, believed it was all from God- that Daughter was never supposed to go to this college. That it was all part of the process to Mom’s reinvention. I didn’t argue. I believed right along with her, because I wanted to.
She didn’t know what would happen and if it would all play out as she hoped and also, she felt so out of place. But she had hope and I blew on that hope wanting to see it rise in the oven of dreams.
You see, this woman, this mom, was going to bat for so many of us, and she was swinging for the fence. She was showing us of second chances and how life doesn’t have to end bitterly when agreements and vows do. She was telling how it’s never too late and screw the nay Sayers. She was saying it’s OK to push all your chips in to the one big hand and let it ride and laugh out loud if you bust. She was gonna room with some eighteen year-old Heather and try to carry calculus. She was gonna have a second life because she wasn’t all that crazy about her first one. Parts of it anyway.
I wish you could have seen her excitement, her fear, her hope, and the light in her eyes that had faded dim so long ago finding ember once more. Yes, there was fear too, but a good kind of fear, a new kind of fear that would not rule over her but that she would wear as a spur. It was contagious, I’m telling you. I’m rooting for her. Aren’t you?