Yesterday was the “progressive dinner” of high school college fairs in this area of Massachusetts. If you’re not familiar with the term, a progressive dinner is one where the participants move from one houses to enjoy different courses- the Jennings for cocktails, the Gorbenski’s for apps, Jenny and Rob always serve the roast beef, you get the idea.

I had to be a Milton High School at 8 am, followed by Braintree at 9:30, Blue Hills Regional Technical School at 1, and Randolph at 220 pm. I had a lot of company, about fifty to sixty other colleges attended, some from as far away as Florida. We all wore comfortable shoes, lugged portable suitcases stuffed with tiny phone chargers, stress balls, little notebooks, flyers, viewbooks, pens, inquiry cards, invitations, business cards, pop up signs and polyester table runners in school colors.

We walked from the parking lot thru Milton High School’s front door like we’d been there before. (I have actually spent a lot of time walking in and out of Milton High School’s front door. My son was asked to leave three months before he was to graduate.) Yesterday morning, I was there to speak to his classmates about coming to school at Quincy College while Colin played NBA All Star Draft in his room.

Admissions representatives don’t speak to each other much, at least that I’ve noticed. Walking in and out of the high schools, we’re rushing, to get to our tables, hoping for coffee, trying to get our display set up and inviting before the first class descends into the cafeteria or the gym, trying to find our car to get to the next college fair, or home, or to a hotel. We are rushing from one place to another, phones in one hand, suitcases dragging behind us. We save our smiles and conversation for the prospective students, that want to us to tell them that Criminal Justice is a terrific major, there are careers for people that study Art, or that they’ll get into Nursing School. I try to be as honest as I can when I speak to the teenagers.

It’s easy for me. Quincy College, where I work, is affordable, so it’s a good fit for most seventeen year olds without a clue. And most seventeen year olds are without a clue. Even if they think they have a clue, they really don’t. Not about the future, anyway. But they do have a hell of a lot of time to figure things out. Not as much time as my son, but they’ve got time, especially if they spend a year at Quincy College, where tuition is affordable, and they can save on housing costs by living at home.

As an Admissions representative, I don’t say much to my colleagues because I’m saving all of my energy for the conversations with the seventeen year olds. I have tired conversations about how Monday’s suck with friends, how irritating work politics can be with people the next desk over, how much I hate the morning with my daughter every morning. The teenagers at the other side get to see Julie, the empathetic, interesting, and interested version. And I get to listen to them, and remember what it was like to be seventeen with the whole world, and a whole life, spread in front of me.

I imagine a few years ago, Admissions representatives might have spoken to each other on the way back to their cars, after the first fair, on their way to the second about the best way to get from point a to point b. But now, we all have phones, with apps like Waze, Google Maps, good ol’ Suri, to guide us to the next stop of the route. So we walk to our cars, separately, calculating if we have enough business cards, summer schedules, and pens for the next stop. In between, Suri does the talking.

During the events, we listen, ask the right questions, and thrust inquiry cards at the students, saying- just fill out your name, email address, high school, interest and date of graduation. The cards they give back are hard to read, and a lot of the time, the workstudy who enters the address gets it wrong. Soon, we’ll have tablets. Soon the inquiry cards will be as automated as our directions.

I’m grateful for Suri. I can’t find my way to the corner store some days. My work study will say a prayer of thanks when we start having prospective students type in their information on a tablet.

Hopefully, there isn’t a technology waiting in the wings to take over the conversations with juniors. They look me in the eye, they listen to my answers. They tell me their plans, they tell me their other plans, sometimes, they tell me they’ve got no plans. I could spend all day going from high school to high school, five days a week.

 

Advertisements
There was a band concert tonight at the high school. All ages were playing, in the post recorder years-. 6th grade thru 12th.
 
I don’t usually get that excited about school concerts. My daughter plays the flute in a sea of fifteen other flautists. Since it’s classical music, and she’s a little older now, it’s not considered good form to kneel down in the orchestra pit to take photos where I can actually see it’s her, instead of one of the other little girls with long hair and a silver rod sticking out of her chin.
 
The music was lovely tonight.This is the first time Kaitlin performed on the same evening as the high school band. There was a eclectic combination of jazz, a smattering of avant garde, I think, or maybe it was modern, and some haunting classical pieces. If I’d known I was going to write this down for the world to read, I would have stolen a program so I wouldn’t seem like such an idiot.
 
I arrived late. Right after I dropped Katy and her friend off to warm up (sorry about the insider musical terms, I was in high school band too,) I had a call to pick her big brother from a friend’s house.
 
I suggested Colin join us at the concert. He said “no, thank you”.
 
Actually, that’s not what he said. The terms he used would sound mean in print, and he’s not a mean boy. I don’t think he’s a mean boy, he’s a fifteen year old boy and he certainly acts pretty damn nasty sometimes, but when I took him to the drive thru he shared his french fries. And he’d been working out. Everyone knows french fries are a key component to muscle recovery.
 
So I had to pick Colin up, get him food, check my teeth for lipstick, remove lipstick, reapply lipstick and fill a go cup with yesterday’s coffee. By the time I was back and parked, far, far away from the front door, I was five minutes late walking into the auditorium.
 
Rock’n roll concerts start late. Band concerts start exactly on time.
 
I staggered up the stairs. In the very top row, and I saw a couple I knew. They did that wave thing, 2nd level, which means “we are saying hello, but we also have a spare seat for you if are willing to climb all the way up and over to join us.” I joined them.
 
I tucked myself into the folding chair and settled down to listen. I looked at all the people in the audience. Colin’s soccer coach from 2nd grade. My friend’s daughter. A yoga classmate and fellow church goer who gives the best hugs in the world. The two people who had welcomed me to sit next to them; they don’t know me well but they have offered me wine on more than one occasion and they’re funny and they think I’m funny so I think I love them too.
 
Small town concerts are different than small town sports events. I had a chance to take stock. I studied the faces of acquaintances, friends, neighbors, gym buddies, and kids. Kids that I’d known first in strollers were tiptoeing down the stairs and out into the lobby to buy snacks by the themselves.
 
I closed my eyes and was swept inside the music. In between songs, I peered onto the stage for a glimpse of my daughter, or Madeleine, or Andy, Colin’s friend from football playing jazz saxophone.
 
It was long. Sometimes it was boring. Sometimes it was fantastic. Sometimes it was sweet and sometimes mysterious. Throughout the entire concert, I felt so blessed to be there, at Milton High School with all of these people I’ve shared so many moments like these with, most of whom I don’t know by name.
 
We share a town. We are sharing our lives in this town in this turbulent, scary time. But inside this town, at the spelling bee and the soccer match, day to day life is still familiar and naive. Yes, there is bad stuff happening here, look at the thousands of beer cans in Cunningham Park.The high school has been on lockdown more than twice in the past couple of years. We fight like crazy people on Facebook, and then seek out a yoga class or head out the back door for a run in the hope of finding some peace.
 
But inside the high school, last night, we were all in it together.
 
I know your daughter, look out for my son. I’ll keep an eye out for your cat that sleeps sprawled in the street. I promise to buy cookies from your niece if you’ll smile at my daughter when you see her standing alone in the morning, waiting for the bus.
 
If you don’t know me, I’m Colin and Katy’s mom. Lately, they’ve been growing up way too fast. So be kind to me too. This is hard. Not just having teenagers in the house, but knowing that the days of band concerts, doling out money for ice cream, helping with homework, and liking the same songs on the radio are pretty much on the way out. All that’s really left are band concerts and football games.
 
I’ve got seven more years of concerts and games.
 
So when you see me, say hi. We will sit on the sidelines together. We will applaud for the people we love, the people we know and the life we are living right now- in the stands, walking the dog, and driving the streets in this little corner of the world.
 
It’s nice knowing I have friends, even if we don’t all know each others names.
 
I’m Julie.Band concert

Big, big football game today.

As a huge fan, well, actually a mom of a boy that plays for the Junior Varsity team, I am compelled to announce, loudly, and with vigor-

Go, Wildcats!!!!!

Crush the Wellesley, um, whatever creature or thing they are called.

Crush the Wellesley Varsity football team!!!!

While I’m on the subject, Crush the Wellesley Junior Varsity team on Monday too!wildcat-logo

Well, crushing is kind of strong word, makes me think of bloodlust. I think everyone agrees that bloodlust is too extreme an emotion for high school sports. Or for professional sports, even, for that matter, in the course of our day to day life.
I hope we can pretty much agree that bloodlust is not terrifically productive.

Boys get hurt in some games, and of course I don’t wish that on anyone, even on one of those Wellesley people.

I really hope those Wellesley players aren’t planning on crushing, maiming or in any literal way, injuring, any of the Milton Wildcats. 

FYI- our football team is not, in fact made up of actual Wildcats, though there are times in the morning that my son is quite surly and his behavior is that of animal raised in the woods.

I’d also like to make it clear- I wouldn’t be in favor of doing any harm to actual wild cats, real ones or surly creatures at the breakfast table. I like cats, I have two cats. Even wild cats are kind of cute, unless they have eaten one your pets but that might just be an urban myth.

Wildcats, play really, really well today.
Winning would be really nice, but know I support each and every one of you. Even if you suck.
Which you totally don’t. You guys are football magic.
Unless the use of the word magic offends you.
You’re really, really good!
Go, Wildcats!!!!!
Play better than the Wellesley team!
(But don’t be smug about it.)

Remember to have fun because everyone knows that’s all that matters.

Love,


From a woman without a clue.

cute-wildcat-baby-25580157

Yesterday it was explained to me that I am actually insane for insisting someone eat scrambled eggs and toast for dinner instead of frosted flakes.

Today, when I picked up the other one from after
school at 4:30- she reminded me about a band concert this evening, except I’d never heard about the concert in the first place.

After we established that- yes, there was going to be concert that every other family with a band loving child in Milton knew about, and my daughter really, really wanted to attend, the possibility was again mentioned that perhaps I’m losing my mind, because of course she would have mentioned it, I mean , Mooooom– (Mom, I have to wear black pants, a white button down shirt, and it has to be clean, mom, like real people’s clean, and I need socks, I forgot about the socks, and shoes, black shoes, and they have to be… )

All explained to me one hour before she was due at the high school to practice.

It was a lovely concert. I was introduced to the band director, had the chance to see some good friends. So many of the kids on the stage I’ve had the pleasure of being in the audience for- either a Celebration of Spring Chorale, or Holiday concert, or Easter Egg Hunt or Isn’t Our Town the Best Town in the Whole World Parade or The Annual Mother’s Day March for Peace .*

The music was unexpected, for me anyway. The different bands performed the works of modern composers. I heard hope, terror, joy, grief, got a glimpse of spring, with just the right touch of “Let it Go”. (I think it’s going to years and years before the fans of that song take the advice spelled out in the chorus.)

The two people the closest to me have told me that I am completely insane and totally losing my mind.

Either one of those two statements might have really pissed me off, except- well, they reached this consensus a long time ago, and somehow I still remember to pick someone up for practice and sign someone else’s test and I’m the only one that ever remembers to feed the dog.

And somehow, I don’t point these points out to them on an hourly basis.

But I am really happy listening to the band, I even plan to tape the recital. I love cheering for the team, whatever the season. “Go Team” is ok, as long as I don’t use any names. Or at least not his name.

It’s been a good day.

And tomorrow, there is nothing on my calendar. No one needs a ride. No one needs anything baked, or bought, or delivered or signed.

Tomorrow’s going to be great.

*At the annual Mother’s Day March for Peace, moms aren’t the audience, we are organizers and leaders, some of us sharing and spilling grief, some of us are there to listen, a lot of us sing. And while we march, everyone keeps an eye on the children, who tag along behind, or limp beside, sweaty sticky palms inside someone’s slightly bigger palm, or race ahead, carrying signs, calling to friends, not looking for us at all, (because they know we are somewhere). Pretty similar to all of the other special days, I guess, except our name is in the title. And for the record, dad’s are welcome.

Every year the kids and I make the journey from Massachusetts to Mountain Lakes, NJ for Thanksgiving. We go to visit my friend Amy, and her family.

Amy was one of my best friends growing up. She did her homework. She could always find her shoes. She went to college and then she finished college. She was, and is, very different from me.
Amy is now a high school math teacher at our old high school. Her husband, John is a lawyer, and her two kids are a little older than Colin and Kate. Taylor is a senior in high school and James is at college.

Somehow, and I have no idea how I pulled this one off, we have become part of the Amy and John’s extended family. She is the only grown up in the world capable of buying Colin a present he actually likes, and will spend hours on the phone discussing important matters of the day- is Katy old enough to trick or treat with three of her friends, no adult hiding behind bushes or lamp posts. The week of Thanksgiving is the only time, some years, we get to be friends face to face.

This year, we got in late Monday night. I thought the route from my house to her house was 84 to 684 to the Tappanzee to 287.* (That’s wrong, don’t try to take 684 to the Tappanzee Bridge. Unless you want to go on an adventure.) We spent about an hour driving around the Bronx while the navigation system told us to get on, and then off, 95 South).

So when we finally got to Amy’s house, I was a little wired. The kids fell into their beds, I hugged Amy good night, and I took Sophia, the Most Patient of Dogs, for a long over due walk.

It was 12:30 at night. I listened to David Gray on the headphones. The streets were shiny with rain, but the rain stopped right after we got outside. My thoughts turned to people I knew that I would not see this time home, or at any reunions down the road.

I didn’t know her well, but the first person I missed was Suzie Stanfield. She was the little sister of a good friend of mine. Her sentences always ended in exclamation points. She was indiscriminately kind to everyone and everything, from the idiot 4th grader that pulled her hair to the spider she found in the bathroom. I don’t think people always shared her enthusiasms. I don’t think people, in high school anyway, were always kind to her. She had a million freckles, a crooked smile and I am reminded of her voice when I listen to my daughter open gifts on Christmas morning. That was Suzie, a Christmas morning kind of girl.

I walk by Lloyd’s house. He lived there alone. He was a few years older than me. When I was in high school I spent a lot of time walking around the “Big Lake”. Most of the time, I would end up stopping by Lloyd’s for a drink. He always had the tv on, and he was always watching Mash. I must have a crush on him because I really can’t remember why I was always walking around the lake and I had already seen every episode of Mash. A lot of girls had crushes on him, he was a blonde surfer late 70’s Gary Cooper.

I still tell my kids about the bone marrow on toast Mrs Houlihan used to give my friend Onk for breakfast when she was little. Mrs. Houlihan. Maybe it’s strange, in this sentimental journey my thoughts would turn to one of best friend’s mothers’. But I would given anything last night to find myself inside Mrs. Houlihans’ kitchen. She looked like a little bird, small and quick. She would make us snacks, flutter her hands when she talked about her daughter, and she spoke with an Easter European accent that made her words sound sweet as pancakes. I was lucky to visit her kitchen and sit at her table.

Remembering people that I loved could have been a lonely business, but Sophia, my beautiful companion, kept me warm. And she would have served as the perfect alibi, I was wandering around wearing leopard flannel pants and a Patriot sweatshirt. It is an established code, dog walkers can wear anything, and all people will think is “what a nice woman, walking her dog when it’s clear she is so tired she is incapable of dressing herself.”

I would never go out for a late walk in my pajama bottoms back home.

But here I was in a strange place, that in some ways, I knew better than home, and it turned into a long, long walk.

I am a New Jersey girl, A Milton Mom, and a Complicated Woman with a Past. I had a lot to think about.

Happy Thanksgiving. And a huge thank you to the Harrington/Eveleth family. Thank you for inviting me home.

*84 to 287 to the Tappanzee Bridge, in case you’re wondering what the right sequence would have been. But don’t try it without confirming this information with a reliable navigation system.