One day we might be a house divided.
(God willing on the money with those last two! And honestly, who knows? Maybe they will all elect to stay in state?)
Last Thursday, Husband and I took Emma and Abby to visit Duke University. Other than one picnic I’d had in Duke Gardens when I was a undergrad (a nice, romantic outing planned by the Husband now – then boyfriend), I haven’t ever set foot on the campus. No basketball games, no football games, no tours, no explorations of the dorms and Gothic Architecture. I did go to a party once, but that was in Durham. I was a Carolina Girl through and through and loyal as the day is long.
Last Thursday felt really weird.
Like, traitorous weird.
Like, did people know I was a Carolina girl on enemy ground weird.
I was sort of afraid it was in the wrinkle of my brow, the smirk of my lips, the set of my shoulders.
We arrived early, hoping to get a free spot, but alas, our early (35 minutes this time) was yet again nowhere near early enough to be early. But no worries, we found a good spot, parked, paid and walked to the admissions building about 15 yards away. It was charming, with its stone walls and covered porches, flagstone patio and wooden benches. The air simmered with the cicadas and the heat of the day was already beating us down despite it only being 9:25 in the morning.
Even at Duke, God is a Tarheel because the skies were intensely Carolina blue.
The girls checked in, we got our stickers (which had a picture of the chapel and said DUKE, so this felt weird too, wearing such a sticker) and our literature and we retreated to the 72 degree inside and sat in the second row in the middle, not wanting to miss a single explanation about how we might possibly be able to afford a $62K a year education for one (or more?) of our children.
Yes, I will let that amount sink in for just a second. Say it to yourself and picture how many mortgage payments, cell phone bills, family vacations, groceries and tanks of gas that buys.
(I know this all sounds cynical. I don’t mean it to, because I’m not. I promise. I like to say that hey, I went to Carolina, I’m smart enough to know that Duke is not the sum of its basketball fans and is an excellent school. One I would be proud, very proud, to send my child to. Its just that whole money thing, because news flash: that kind of money just isn’t possible. It just isn’t. Like, even if we ate hot dogs every day for the rest of our lives possible.)
A very nice, and recently graduated young woman spoke to us for over an hour. Working her way through the PowerPoint (with an excellent vocabulary I might add, I was decidedly impressed), she highlighted the programs, the majors, the unique characteristics of the two different colleges within Duke’s system and how the professors work with the students on a one-on-one basis, always with success in mind. These concepts were illustrated with pictures of smiling students, learned looking professors, and beautiful sweeping vistas of the campus. She then discussed the statistics for enrollment (9%) and the overall cost. Abby and Emma paid rapt attention, but I have to wonder if they really understood all of what she said when she made reference to “declaring your major” and “morphing three different subjects to create a custom track of study.” I have to wonder if the numbers she threw at us meant anything to them as teenagers other than a random number. I mean, do kids really know anything about money? Do they truly understand how much something costs or is valued?
My instinct is to say no.
But we sat quietly nonetheless, and listened. I was impressed, not gonna lie.
The second half of the morning commenced with about five tour guides coming to the front, telling us a little bit about themselves, and then instructing us to meet them outside in the courtyard. These students were currently undergrads, mostly juniors and seniors, seemed very nice and excited to be there despite the bubbling heat of the summer. Of course we picked the tour guide from our neck of the woods, because he seemed nice and hey, he’d gone to a rival high school! From that point on, it was walking. Walking past the famous chapel, walking past the libraries (that we couldn’t really go in to because the university was taking advantage of the summer and the fewer students to do a huge amount of construction), walking through the quads, walking past the medical center and down to Science Drive. From there, because of the time (it was noon at this point), we had to ditch our group and find our way back to the truck. We had a date with my former professor in her offices back in Chapel Hill and there was no way I was going to miss that, I hadn’t seen her in forever and she was a vital part of my life. It was only because of her I even got the opportunity to go to Carolina. We wove through the residential side of campus, through tunneled halls that spilled out on to smaller quads. It was very Hogwarts-esque, both the architecture and the different residential “houses” all named and designated.
It is a beautiful campus, for sure.
We made it back to the truck, cranked the air, and hightailed it back to Chapel Hill where we had to leave the car on the circle of the hotel, run upstairs, pack up, gather the rest of our flock who’d spent the morning in the hotel pool and check out (I’d asked for a late check out, thankfully). While we were driving though, Husband asked the question …
“Well, what did y’all think?”
They were quiet for a second, and then Abby piped right up (this was her first “official” college tour, by the way).
“I liked it, but I really like it better in Chapel Hill. I don’t know why, I just feel more at home there.” (Maybe this is because of Husband and I and all the places we showed them?)
Emma? (For whom this tour was really scheduled.)
“I would be proud to go to either university.”
Emma, ever the diplomat.
My whole comment to them was of course the wet blanket of the day.
“You have to realize that no matter where you go look, the people will tell you the same thing. ‘This is the best university since sliced bread!’ “We have everything you need!’ They are selling you a product, and they will say whatever they need to say to get you to buy that product. Now, that’s not to say that what they are telling you isn’t true, but you have to use your brain and look at the important stuff. Does this university give me what I need? Does this university need me? Does this university offer me the opportunity to take what I learn and make it bigger? Does it fulfill me?”
That’s my role, the one to throw logic into any situation, thus deflating all good feelings. It’s a role that I don’t particularly cherish, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t make them think. They took it in stride though, perhaps they’ve come to expect it from me.
I’m still not sure what will happen, but we have two years to figure it out which is the beauty of it all, Emma is only a rising junior. I highly suggest starting early and visiting as many places as possible.
The metaphor we use for college is a wedding dress (I guess I’ll have to come up with something different for Bennett). After two years of Say Yes to the Dress, this is something they can comprehend, after all. Lucy knew. We’d visited Vanderbilt, UNC, William and Mary, Wake Forest and finally, UGA. UGA gave her the most happiness and feeling of security. I never felt sad when she left because she was never sad. She was thrilled.
We will have many more visits before Emma knows which school is her wedding dress, but I can’t help hope that it might be that particular shade of light blue … the color of the sky.