Sunday, August 4, 2013

Thirty-two years after.

My seventeen-year-old son and I were sitting in the admissions office of Holy Cross College last week when it hit me: it was thirty-two years to the day when my father had escorted me there for my own interview. It was the summer of 1981 and we were on our way to Cape Cod for a week's vacation and a visit with my sister who had been working in Hyannis for the season. My father had asked me several months previously if I had wanted to visit Holy Cross College on the way, but I had dismissed the idea without consideration. I was seventeen-years-old, and the prospect of following in my father's footsteps at Holy Cross hadn't appealed to me. Since he hadn't brought the subject up again, I had thought the matter had been dropped until I woke up from a nap and found us parked on the side of a steep street lined with tall trees. "Where are we?" I yawned. "Holy Cross College," my father replied. "I thought you might want to stretch your legs for a bit." I wanted to complain about the unannounced stop, but the back seat had been loaded up with boxes of cereal and other supplies for my sister (apparently there had been no grocery stores on Cape Cod at the time) and my legs were aching for a walk. I brushed the doughnut crumbs off of my faded T-shirt and crawled out of the car.

And what a place for a walk. The campus looked like a scene from a movie set on the grounds of an old New England college. There were brick buildings everywhere, all of them covered with Ivy. Stone benches and gardens dotted the hill upon which the college had been placed, and the city of Worcester opened up beneath us. We strolled around for a while as I slowly fell in love with the tranquility of the setting and the scent of the roses hanging in the air. After twenty minutes I turned to my father and said: "I really like this place, Dad, I wish I had let you talk me into scheduling an interview." My father consulted his watch: "You do have an interview, Peter," he said. "In ten minutes time. We best get going over to Fenwick."

I can remember being unsure how to react: upset that he had pulled a fast one, or happy that I was getting my wish. The latter emotion won out, and I smiled as I followed him towards the admissions building, busted flip-flops scraping along the well-manicured brick path. We signed in and sat down in the waiting room--which looked identical to the 2013 version--and watched the other candidates straighten their ties and wipe off their loafers. Some time later the admissions officer came to get me and I had my interview, although I can't remember anything we discussed. But I do remember one thing: On the way out I grabbed an application, (You actually had to pick them up in those days) and I had it filled out, essays and all, before we got to Hyannis. I handed it to my father on the way in to my sister's apartment, and I never saw it again. My father must have slipped it into the mail because my acceptance letter arrived three months later, marking the end of my college search, a process that took approximately three hours.

Now I have told this story before, because a good story reveals, and this one reveals a lot: about me and what a complete mess I was; and about my father and what a perceptive and patient man he was.
Fast-forward thirty-two years. I would have loved to pull the same stunt my father did but the world is a different, more-scheduled, place now, so I scheduled the interview during our annual vacation in Rhode Island. It would make a great story to say that this was to be my seventeen-year-old's first trip to the hill, but in truth I have dragged them there at least a dozen times. But he's a great kid and he goes along with things, even laughing about the same stories he's heard over and over. (The one about the time I ripped my friend's blue blazer on the way home from a blind-date ball is my favorite.)

I'll be honest; I would love to see my son go to Holy Cross. For a lot of reasons, some of the right ones, and some of the wrong ones. I would delineate them but 1) you are tiring of me 2) you can figure out what they are and 3) I need to go pick blueberries, so I will end here with one last thought. Thanks again for your patience and attention, and don't forget to visit my website. Ok, here's that last thought. Holy Cross is a special place, and I quite obviously love it, but my son doesn't have to go there. The important thing is that he falls in love with whatever school he goes to, and makes that school as special to him as Holy Cross was special to me. That's all a parent can ask for.