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.