I’m sitting outside, in the common area at the community college campus near my house.
It’s awkward though, it’s a warm sunny day but it’s still mid-spring. The sun is warm but there’s still a bit of a chill around.
When I sit on the bench in the shade, it’s too cold. So I move to the bench in the sun. But when I sit in the sun, I can’t see my computer screen because of the glare.
I could go inside the building of course, but the bright sunshine and breezes make it seem like it would be a shame to be inside rather than outside.
It’s a community college, not unlike the one that was just a few miles from my home growing up. The kind of school I definitely looked down upon then, and even looked down on the kinds of kids who would choose to go there. I didn’t get it.
Why wouldn’t they want to go away to school, live on campus, immerse themselves in a whole new world for four years? How could they not want that, I thought to myself with all the worldly wisdom of a 17-year old girl who grew up in the suburbs of Buffalo.
What’s awkward for me sitting outside here today is that in some ways it feels like it’s me who should be going to college, not her. Not that I’m yearning for any more formal education for myself, I’m not. I have a masters degree, I’m good, thanks.
But Doug and I met in college. The college experience is the foundation of our relationship, the beginning of our shared life. Even back then, as college juniors, we knew we were getting married. We wanted children. Lots of them. There really wasn’t much question to it, only a matter of when.
So this college environment, the whole thing, it feels like the definitive experience of my adult life. The life I planned with the man I loved while in college myself.
Is it the life I anticipated? Mostly yes, with a few surprises. A husband and kids and a house and a yard and a kitchen table and a messy living room and squabbles and colored pencils and fabric and soccer and pets. Except not the pets. I definitely wasn’t going to have any pets.
And I don’t know that I’d ever even heard of homeschooling back then either.
So now I’m outside trying to get comfortable for several hours while she takes her placement test. The bench in the sun, it’s too much. The bench in the shade, it’s not enough. There is no in between here where I wait.
The place is starting to fill with students. It must be between classes. I still feel like maybe it should be me that’s going to college, not her. Surely not enough time has passed already that it’s time for her to find her own identity, her own place in the world.
It’s only one college class, it’s not even the real thing. It’s just a start to the real thing.
At times I wonder if she will miss the traditional college experience, the kind Doug and I had. The one our relationship is built on.
In my stronger moments of uncertainty, I want that for her. The old buildings, the stress, the homecoming weekends, the bad food, the midnight dormitory shenanigans, the piles of work without a plan to get it all done. The being far from home.
But she’s not very traditional. And we’ve raised her that way.
A lady came to sit on the bench across from me, the one in the shade, and she just introduced herself. I’m not sure why. I’m sitting in the sun, squinting at my computer screen, trying to make out the dark, very dark letters on the nearly black screen. It’s a lot of murky charcoal grey in front of me, I can barely make out what’s right in front of me.
It’s OK though.
I can’t see clearly because the sunshine is very bright.
But the sun feels warm.
And the breeze is getting warmer.
It really is a beautiful day.