Freshman orientation.

photo(25)Spending two days on a college campus will do one of two things for/to you when you’re my age.   Or maybe a little of both.  It will recall your own university days while reminding you how old you are now.  But if you’re lucky, it will also give you a jolt of youthful energy the likes of which you haven’t known in years.  Fortunately I got the good with the bad.

I spent Monday and Tuesday on the University of North Carolina – Wilmington campus.  It’s a part of the 17-campus UNC system.**  Wilmington is a port city, thus UNCW is our coastal university.  Many students matriculate there in order to study marine sciences.

My granddaughter H will be attending UNCW in the fall so I accompanied her and her mom, my youngest daughter S, to freshman orientation.  I pretended I was a parent and attended parent classes with S while H took placement tests, got acquainted with the campus and a good sampling of other freshmen students, and registered for fall semester classes.  The staff and upperclassmen who assisted with orientation were superb.  They worked together and ran their programs like a well-oiled machine.  Very impressive.

H is an artist and knows she wants to do something with her artistic talent, maybe graphic arts.  She’s  not entirely sure what her course of study will include.  Registration was an exercise in frustration for her.  She didn’t get any typical freshman courses because her AP exam scores are not available yet and she doesn’t know what courses she will not have to take.  In my opinion the courses she did get sounded more interesting than the typical freshman fare–Women’s Studies, for

S and I were able to see much of the campus while we were waiting around for H.  At one point we were in the library when I saw a big blue glass sculpture in a display case. I went over to examine it more closely and learned it was done by one of my favorite artists, Dale Chihuly.  I think I have mentioned Chihuly in this space before.  Much of his work is displayed in Seattle where he lives.  The artist donated this piece to the UNCW library.  Thank you, Mr. Chihuly!  It’s beautiful.

In my opinion, universities are delightful places to spend time, especially with incoming first year students.  Everywhere I looked I saw beautiful faces beaming with hope, and energetic bodies in constant motion.  They don’t realize what a joy they are for the older generation to behold.  I have no desire to go back to that age, but I do have great confidence in their intelligence and good intentions.  They are our hope and I believe in  Okay–enough schmaltz from me.

**For years the University of North Carolina System has been considered by many educators and other professionals to be one of the best state systems in the country.  Our history is long and impressive.  The University of NC at Chapel Hill was founded in 1789.  The Chapel Hill campus is the oldest public university in the United States and the only one that graduated students in the 18th Century.  As mentioned above, we have grown to 17 campuses.

Sadly, I (along with many other North Carolinians) have serious concerns about the future of higher education in our state.  We now have a Republican Governor AND a majority of Republicans in the General Assembly for the first time since Reconstruction.  Their first day on the job, they began a maniacal attack on education.  They are cutting funds and programs not only in the university system but in the K-12 public schools as well. It appears that our best years may be behind us.  Without adequate funds we will no longer be able to recruit the brightest and the best.  I’m demoralized by this turn of events.  But I’m also motivated to vote those destructive people out of office in the next election.


“In My Dreams”

I’m cold.  So cold I’m shivering and shaking.  I hear something running.  A furnace?  A faucet?  A waterfall?  Slowly consciousness starts to make an appearance.  I realize it’s raining — hard.  And I really am cold.  Of course I have to go pee after listening to all that water.

So I got up.  Went to the bathroom.  Looked at the clock.  5:00 a.m.  Too early to stay up.  I put on a long-sleeved shirt and curled up again in my too-big king-sized bed and let the sound of the rain lull me back to dreamland.

I’m at my former in-laws’ home.  It isn’t a place I’ve seen before.  It’s a different house.  My father-in-law is there.  He sits back and observes more than he participates, his crooked little smile on his face.  My mother-in-law plays the part of the queen bee, as always.  She’s an attentive hostess as she sees to her guests and keeps the party flowing.  She’s always done that so very well.  They seem happy, my in-laws, and contented.  Mother-in-Law brings out some photos she’s found while cleaning.  She wants to share them with me because my children are in them.  We enjoy sharing times past.  Happy times.

I stirred.  Then sat up.  I looked at the clock.  It was almost 8:00.  Late.  My first instinct, first thought, was to call my ex.  No, I realized, that wouldn’t do.  Maybe an e-mail.  No, maybe not.

I wanted to let him know that his dad is okay.  You see, his dad died not long after we separated.  I wanted so much to comfort him back then, but was not allowed to do so.  He wouldn’t allow it.  I’m still not allowed.

Isn’t it interesting/strange how our dreams try to help us finish what our real lives can’t accommodate?  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it serves only to recall and exacerbate the pain.

“In My Dreams” by Emmylou Harris.