Quidditch and Carolina in My Mind

What would you choose to do with your life if time had a more liquid quality?

Miles walked today: 2?

Percentage of students at Carolina who study abroad: 40

Slices of pizza eaten at Pepper’s, my old haunt (artichoke and sundried tomato): 1

When my dad and I went to orientation at my college the summer I left for school, I had a sinking moment when I thought: oh, shoot. They’re leaving me here for four years? Like, to live?

My dad was also having a whale of a time at orientation and couldn’t stop giggling with another dad in the back of the auditorium when the speaker talked about stuff like security and classes and meal plans. I suspected he might be having more fun than I was.

I had been trying to get the heck out of Dodge for the previous three years, at least. Atlanta wasn’t big enough for me. I was ready for bigger things… in a smaller place. So when I arrived a few days before school started to do Freshman Camp, I knew no one. Not a soul.

And I loved it.

There were lots of boys, lots of pizza and independence in spades.

I dated one boy, ate lots of pizza and called my parents in desperation when I had spent too much money on pizza and also made a stupid subtraction error, to the tune of $100 ($100!), in my checkbook.

We didn’t have cell phones back then, so plans to meet up with each other often went awry back when time was a more liquid entity.

Time? That’s for old people. I remember seeking out free phones in campus buildings to call empty dorm rooms.

There were huge parties and endless hours with friends when you had nothing better to do than fill out a crossword puzzle or watch “Guiding Light.” And there were times when home felt much more than 450 miles away.

College is a different place today.

Everyone has a laptop, a cell phone, an iPod. They are connected. Students start small businesses and eat in newly renovated cafterias with Subway sandwich cafes and modern architecture.

Today, my BFF and I took our four kids to my alma mater. Her daughter is a freshman in high school, and I subscribe to the belief that kids can’t shoot for a goal unless they know it’s there.

We went to the old business school building, which is now the new journalism school building, and we listened to the orientation speech.

The speaker talked about out-of-state students, studying abroad, the honors program and about 500 clubs you could join.

“The Quidditch Club?” My friend’s daughter perked up.

The admissions counselor/daytime comedian talked about students on broomsticks in the Quad, trying to catch another student who had painted himself in gold paint.

Wow. I felt old.

And my friend’s daughter was ready to sign up. She might start filling out her application tonight, listing Quidditch as her major.

My son wanted detailed instructions about where to go to get food.

We took a tour, and when they saw the model dorm room, my son asked, “Where’s the rest of it? Where does the other person sleep?” I pointed up on the loft. “Oh….” he said, eyes glazed.

My daughter wanted to know where they kept the TV.

And I wondered what the mailboxes in the common area were used for anymore.

We used to wait for letters from home or letters from friends at other universities. If we were really lucky, a friend would send a mix tape with songs we had never heard before… songs that would become our favorites until the tape wore out from overuse.

Why would a student need a mailbox today? Texts from friends arrive instantaneously. Professors email answers to questions. Even bills are delivered electronically.

The buildings felt haunted with the person I used to be: a goofy dreamer with anxiety about the unmapped future, the one who met and befriended people who played Frisbee with me and went to aerobics with me and talked to me late at night and comforted me when things got tough.

Those people don’t exist anymore, at least not in the way I remember them. Every time I saw an adult my age or older, I had that kind of flash like on the TV show, “Cold Case”: they morphed into what I imagined they used to be.

There we were, parents who wish for our kids that they go away to college and have the same wonderful, heartbreaking, earth-shattering, lonely, friendship-ful time we did.

And maybe, just maybe, get to play some Quidditch.

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21 thoughts on “Quidditch and Carolina in My Mind

  1. Andria says:

    When I visited my Alma Mater, Principia College a few years ago, they didn’t get cell phone reception- EEEK! Even as adults half of us were kind of freaking and we were only there for 4 days.. Every day we would leave the little town of Elsah and go to do something fun in the area and we would all be on our cell phones to call home. You know how they say you can’t go back- we weren’t sure if we could go back to no cell phone access.

  2. E says:

    Thanks for the tour! I finally got to feel what it must be like to go to college. I kinda want to go now (just for the time away!) Oh did you notice that my daughter only looked up from the texting when he mentioned that club? It was like a dog who just got a glimpse of a squirrel. 🙂

  3. jmmcdowell says:

    Oh, yes the dorm mailboxes. Would we have a letter from old friends at different colleges today? Would Mom send a check to help with expenses? What about a letter from my overseas pen pals?

    Those days are gone, indeed. Now we’re just an email or Facebook update away. Would I go back? Some days it might be tempting. But mostly I look forward. Maybe not what you’d expect an archaeologist to do. 😉

    • annewoodman says:

      As a parent, I’m very excited about how connected our kids will be. Of course, there might be distractions (will be, sorry), but at least I’ll be able to get in touch with them. That’s a pretty cool perk. I’m with you.

  4. Melissa says:

    A glimpse into the future…two more weeks and he’s officially a college student. He’ll spend too much money on pizza and not think twice about home…But I am so very thankful that he will be connected. Part of me hopes he has as much fun as I did and the other part of me is scared to death that he will.

    Very timely post that has made me a bit nostalgic.

    • annewoodman says:

      Yes, I know that day is coming for me, too! I know your little (big) man will do just great. He is very mature and has his head on straight. He’ll do you proud.

  5. 4amWriter says:

    Oh my gosh–mix tapes. You totally threw me back 20 years!

    I love this: “I subscribe to the belief that kids can’t shoot for a goal unless they know it’s there.” That’s so true, which is why when kids express an interest in art or soccer or outer space we need to show them what it means beyond books or movies so they can put reality and imagination together and make a plan.

    Mailboxes. Hmm. Good question. Netflix DVDs? Pizza Hut and Subway flyers? Court summons?

    • annewoodman says:

      Even as much as we’ve talked about college and visited campus for my kids’ entire lives, they had never seen the inside of a lecture hall or a dorm room. I think it gives them something concrete to shoot for, something they can visualize. And I’m really big on visualization!

      All those mailboxes… something seemed sad about them.

  6. David Gentry says:

    Touching and well expressed. I am glad you had a good time in college even if it came along with some angst.

    Love, Dad

  7. Ravena Guron says:

    I’m not there yet! *sobs.* I didn’t know they had mailboxes in colleges… I’ve never seen any when I visit them.

    • annewoodman says:

      That’s funny that the mailboxes are a little secret colleges keep. ; )

      And when you get there (in a year? Two?), you will have the best time. You have so much to look forward to!

  8. Holly says:

    I knew Duke had a Quidditch team but didn’t realize Carolina had one. Too funny.

    I love your description of “Cold Case” morphing. I do that all the time with people.

  9. OH MY! I just had a major 35 year old flashback. This was a great post Anne. You paint beautiful pictures with your words. I have gone back to my college campus and can hardly recognize it. After I graduated, a very wealthy man donated an obscene amount of money to “Upgrade the school. This has been going on now for about 30 years. It is an amazing campus now. But, I still miss some of the old buildings. They had that small town character.

  10. robincoyle says:

    You? A goofy dreamer? Thats what I like about you!

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