|The house I grew up in|
|The house I grew up in|
One of the ways the College of Wooster deals with the anxious parents of its new students is to include them in a two-day registration event, held in late June. While students take placement tests and register for classes, parents are shepherded to a sequence of speeches and presentations on academic expectations and student resources, mostly unnecessary information from the perspective of the parent of a pretty independent kid, but reassuring nonetheless. I did point out to one of my fellow parents that the main point was “purchase confirmation:” private college today is incredibly expensive, and we have signed up for at least four year’s worth, so it’s a good moment to remind us what we’re paying for. Of course, this aspect was unmentioned so far today and is simply my interpretation.
My analysis won me a friend, though, who joined me at the end of the day at the parents’ wine and dessert mingle for some pleasant conversation and helped me find my rental car in the dark.
Regular readers know that we are in the process of cleaning up, packing up, and moving out of our house of almost 18 years, in anticipation of a move to New York. The timing of this short trip to Ohio falls awkwardly in the midst of one of the busiest few weeks of my life, but the worst thing that might happen is that I will run out of time, they pack my things in a disorganized state, and I deal with it at some future date in an as yet unknown location.
On the way here this morning I missed a turn toward campus, but as a reward for taking the (smaller) road less travelled by, we encountered a frolicking pair of (living) black squirrels. One of the recurring jokes of the movie “Up” is that dogs are pretty easily distracted, especially when it comes to squirrels. I have been known to interrupt conversations to notice unfortunate body language, remarkable spiders, or a particular kind of tree, so throwing my car into reverse to get a better look at black squirrels is not an usual thing for me. The neighbors seemed a bit puzzled by our behavior, but puzzling Ohioans has become a daily event now.
One thing that still puzzles me is that I have observed the squirrels in this town, both the special black ones and the ordinary gray, walking a slow, four-beat walk: step, step, step, step. I do not ever remember seeing squirrels do anything but hop in that distinctive arcing motion. I guess I usually walk with dogs, which inspire more motion from squirrels. I have also noticed that these squirrels seem willing to pose for photographs.
My grandfather struggled with squirrels, who waited until his tomatoes were nearly perfect and then ruined them all, taking bites out of every last one. His solution was to trap them and take them to a park about a mile away and set them free. There were so many squirrels in his neighborhood, this remedy did not seem to have an effect, and somehow my grandmother argued that the squirrels were not taken far enough away. My grandfather answered this question by spray-painting the tails of his trapped squirrels green before taking them to the park and releasing him. No green-tailed squirrels ever returned.
One day, in about eight weeks, we will drop our middle son at college for his freshman year. He is a tomato-lover himself. We certainly hope he does return to us, even though we will have moved.
In those days, kids walked to school, and walked by themselves, even if they were tiny girls with skinny arms and skinny legs like me. I was expected to walk through the neighborhood behind our house, which was thoroughly haunted from end to end. It had grotesque trees that were ready to catch you up in their limbs and crush you if only they could reach you. The houses were all different from each other, not little variations on a theme as it was in my neighborhood, where all the houses were brick. No, on Polo Drive there were houses that looked like castles, and houses with circular driveways, and Tudor houses with crooked timbers and crazy crooked bricks. Some of the houses looked big enough to be schools or hospitals. Clearly, most of them were haunted: you never saw cars, or people going in or out. There weren’t any nasty loose Schnauzers trying to bite you, like there were on Davis Drive. There were gaping sidewalk cracks showing just where the trolls were hiding, just there underground. The sidewalks were not straight and square like there were in my neighborhood. They were curved. It seemed all wrong. Even the street signs used a scary, gothic, unreadable font, as if to let you know how haunted it was. Absolutely worst of all, there were the crows.