Prexy’s Pasture. The grass is perfect, the sun is shining, the sidewalks are laid out like Nazca Lines. “The University of Wyoming Family” statue is gleaming white. University buildings surround the lawn, making it impossible to see the Real World from there. The Pasture got it’s name from a very early and obscure rule that allows the University’s president, nicknamed “Prexy” to exclusively use the area for his livestock to graze. How perfectly Wyoming.
It’s beautiful space. Every university I’ve ever visited has such a space, that space you picture when you imagine college. Young people studying in the sun, throwing a Frisbee, eating with friends, talking, laughing. Hurrying across to get to class.
And in this case: Me standing there. In the middle of it all, sweating. Fear and doubt gnawing at me, threatening to tear through my skull. It’s an ungraspable dread. A twisting, wrenching, gut-deep seed of panic. All my hard work is crumbling around my shoulders. I’m ruined.
I think I registered for a class that I forgot to go to, and it’s May.
I’m 24 years removed from Commencement, and I still regularly have that nightmare. And I KNOW I’m not alone. The pressures of college are unique, and they inevitably mark a person.
We just finished our freshman year of Empty Nesting. I think we handled the second semester better than the first. We must be growing up. For instance, I’m thinking I’ll handle The Youngest being home for the summer better than I did him being home over the winter break. It was great having him home. He and I genuinely enjoy one another’s company. We laugh a lot, we say snarky and incomprehensible things. But the whole time he was home I kept thinking, “I love you dude, and it’s great to have you here. Now get the hell out.”
Obviously I’m a crappy dad. But really, get out man. Your crap is everywhere. How can I hide the laundry I was supposed to do on your bed if you’re sleeping in it? Those donuts I’m not supposed to be eating? You ate them! I shouldn’t have to close the bathroom door when I’m doing my business. It’s my house!
But that’s ok, I’ll just make you go get tacos with me for lunch tomorrow. Then you can get out.
Yeah, I think we did pretty well this semester. She and I ate at home more often, because I’m starting to nail down creative ways to cook for two. I think I’ve got the five-ingredient Carbonara down pat. It’s easy to cure beef short ribs in the fridge when you only need two small chunks. And riding a bike to the grocery store may actually work. I’ve also discovered, much to my chagrin, that left-overs aren’t always the lifeless, masticated tragedy I pretend them to be.
We’ve also given ourselves rules (well, guidelines really) about when and how often we can go out. I mean, we break them pretty regularly, but so what? We’re grown-ups, and doesn’t that level of initiative and ambition prove it? So shut up.
And She’s become a bit of a Gamer Girl. Kind of a She-nerd really. Here’s an exercise: Close your eyes and picture Her sitting in a chair cross-legged, leaning forward, clutching an Xbox One controller. She’s changed out of her suit, poured a glass of wine, and is preparing to do battle in the Post-apocalyptic Wasteland of 23rd century Boston. In moments, she’ll start swearing like a pirate, screaming at Ghouls and Raiders that they’re only getting what they deserve.
Now open your eyes. Yeah, it really is that funny. But I’m not telling her, and neither would you.
Our older son is a week shy of finishing his third year of college. He’s had a great year and I feel nothing but pride in what he’s accomplished. The universe can sometimes be a bit of a dick, and seems to occasionally like kicking him in the groin, but he just keeps getting up. Stupid universe, if only I could call it’s mom.
The Youngest is done with his freshman year now, having taken his last final and moved out of the dorms. It was a great year for him, culminating in an anxiety-filled week of studying, finals, and sleep-deprivation.
He can sleep easy now, and with a short break. Pretty soon he’ll start waking up in the morning, wondering where that class is. You know, the one he registered for but forgot to go to.