It’s about damn time. At the ripe old age of 48, I attended my first frat party. I went with my husband, children, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, and my nephew, the actual fraternity bro, and this is all totally normal, right? I drank only two beverages, and maintained sobriety throughout, so I’m just not getting what the whole big whoop about it is. Kidding. I was all over college drunkenness like it was my job (it was a part-time gig) back in the day even though I never really fit in at my university. For starters, my university didn’t have a Greek system then, so fraternity parties weren’t even a thing there. I worked full time and lived at home during college because I PAID FOR COLLEGE MYSELF, but this is not to say that I didn’t enjoy my Friday/Saturday night cover band live music shows. Bands were my thing then, still are–hello?, and I was way more into guitar gods than I would have been into Greek gods. Plus, I went to a fairly conservative Catholic university and looked like I lived in a Ratt or Motley Crue video. Yeah, I didn’t exactly fit in. I haven’t even begun, yet I digress. Story of my life.
We spent last weekend in Atlanta alongside family, rooting on the old Ramblin’ Wreck of Georgia Tech, who disappointingly, piddled away a 21-0 early lead. It was family weekend, and it was a blast. Atlanta is a big city, so it was one long walk after another. A long walk for some people might be to the corner; to others, it might be a mile or two. For my big kid, it meant over seven miles per day. And he did it without complaint, not even once. We knew he was tired because we kept asking him if he was tired. Because apparently we are dumb.
Rambling around the beautiful Tech campus with our nephew as tour guide and in the company of several extended family members was wonderful. I love the idea of my kids viewing college not as an “if you go” thing, but a “where will you go?” thing. They’ve been to four major university campuses to date, and we plan to continue visiting right up until acceptance letters are delivered, six-to-eight years from now. But like so many other things in their lives, strolling around a college campus was the classic exercise in the study of brotherly compare/contrast.
My fourth grader embraced his inner ramblin’ wreck and wandered where the wind, if not the actual people he knew, took him. My little kid truly rambled, so maybe GT will become his college home, he could easily be of the ramblin wreck ilk. That kid, the nicest, sweetest soul alive, is at home anywhere he goes. He’s quiet until he finds his groove, and then he never shuts up. There are few thoughts that pass cortical synapses that don’t pass his lips. And I never shut up, so trust me, the kid is a talker. He wandered off, oh, I don’t know, 25-30 times a day, and it was easy to flash forward and see him rolling into class at the very moment class commences, or maybe a minute or two later, ’cause, hey, dude. Maybe he’ll eat lunch, maybe he’ll forget until the next day. Maybe he’ll pick philosophy for a major, maybe electrical engineering, maybe sports medicine. Who knows? He will find a place, his place, and live happily every after there until he rambles to his next home. It used to piss me off no end when I was younger and my own mom would say, “You were the one I never had to worry about. You were the one we knew would find your way more easily than your brother.” This is a story for another time, but I was more a rule follower, more on the beaten path than off, and while my little guy is just the opposite of that, he’s that one, for a host of entirely different reasons–the one I won’t have to worry about quite as much.
While my little one took the road less traveled, I found myself looking at college for my big kid with a lump in my throat and something like a skip in my heart. College is SO BIG. There are so many buildings, and they’re spread over square miles, not city blocks. There are so many people, most of them crossing campus with ear buds in, texting whomever as they go, barely looking up. They’re quick. They’re beautiful. They navigate so easily, cutting and running and dodging and sliding. I didn’t see one person in a wheelchair the whole time we were there, and I was looking. I felt so fearful for his college move-in day, and he’s in sixth grade! The dorms looked huge, and they were grand, stately red brick behemoths, but they didn’t look terribly accessible. College is so fast. My big kid is anything but.
My heart was racing much of the time we were there, so said my Fitbit. But the most kickass thing my Fitbit showed me was the mileage that I accrued one day–that we, that HE accrued in one day Oh, my boy, you walked until you had to sit down. And then you got up and walked some more until you had to sit down. And then you got up again. I am so proud of you–before, you’d have complained and squawked the whole time.
It has been incredible to see our nephew evolve from the elementary school kid he was when I met my husband to the exceptionally bright, engaging young man he has become. He’s composed and kind, paying my Yahoos attention they basked in and savored. He paid attention to the details of their stories, and they loved being around him. I sincerely hope that I can be the kind of parent to my boys that Tom’s sister and brother-in-law are to their children. They didn’t even flinch at the frat house! Sure, they’d been there before, but they didn’t even bat an eyelash Sunday morning when the streets of Georgia Tech resembled a scene straight outta Animal House. As for my first frat party? Well since my kids were there, you can imagine it wasn’t that kind of frat party, at least not in the early afternoon, but I will tell you that my quads are still burning because there ain’t no way I was going to fully commit to sitting on that toilet seat. Uh-uh.