Kurt Holmes is the Dean of Students at the College of Wooster and his presentation and Q & A period were for me the most informative hour and a half of the entire ARCH session. He talked about mundane things like FERPA and HIPAA, but also the Wooster Ethic, where my notes say, “= BRILLIANT.” He gave some of the most intelligent and level-headed advice about parenting college-age children that I have ever heard, “Please do me favor: don’t kill them.”

The child in question is quite satisfied with the schedule of classes he registered for, to begin in the fall.

We went to lunch at Omahoma Bob’s Barbeque, where I ordered a delicious pulled pork sandwich, cole slaw and a root beer. The interior is a cool mix of sand-blasted brick and homey diner styling. The cute young gal with retro bangs and a wide pink headband handed us a nested pair of Styrofoam cups for our drinks. I do not remember the last time I used a Styrofoam cup in any setting. To be honest, I thought they did not make Styrofoam cups anymore. You don’t have to spend much time on the beach to notice that tiny bits of plastic and polystyrene are floating all over the world’s oceans and washing up on shore everywhere. You don’t have to work at the National Toxicology Program to wonder if Styrofoam is bad for people, too.

Obviously, I have been living in Seattle so long I have lost touch with the rest of America—the part of this country where they still serve drinks in Styrofoam cups. Next week, in fact, one week from today, I am supposed to get in my truck and drive across the United States, all the way from Washington to New York, with my oldest son, a cat, and two dogs. I will not be surprised by the ice-cold air-conditioning, friendly questions about why we’d ever want to leave Washington, or Styrofoam cups.


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.


The only non-stop flight from Seattle to Cleveland is a red-eye, departing Seattle at 10:50 pm and arriving about five hours later.  Even if I could sleep on a plane, which I can’t, five hours is not enough sleep.  I am pretty certain to be in a stupor for several days thanks to this experience.
Cleveland recently saw the completion of a large, glossy lavish car-rental terminal, in an industrial park about ten minutes from the actual airport.  The shuttle bus driver, hilarious in his own opinion, wanted to know why in the world we would leave Seattle to come to Ohio.  He also pointed out that we should enjoy the lavishness of the car-rental terminal in the five or so minutes we would be spending there.  I had reserved a full-size car, employing my husband’s strategy for “getting something decent.”  Of course, there were no full-size cars available, so I was offered an SUV for the same price. 
Navigating in Ohio is not especially difficult, though, and we arrived in the town of Wooster just about an hour after landing here.  Our “Modern Blue Pearl” Jeep Grand Cherokee, with 31,00 miles and a huge stain on the back seat is inoffensive from the driver’s perspective, although the tires screamed on most cloverleafs, and there was no figuring out the satellite radio.  As a position of principle, I find the entire SUV category to be rather offensive, being neither good to drive, good to park nor good to the planet, but my opinions are not interesting to many auto manufacturers.  I understand that even Mercedes has discontinued carrying wagons in favor of their uglier and mightier monstrosities (including, a RAV4 ripoff, some bulbous mini-van-ish things, and a military-themed assault vehicle started at $105,750).  Someday I would love to talk to a Mercedes-Benz strategist about what (if anything) they think goes on inside the car-buying mind of a wealthy American mom.
It was garbage collection day yesterday, which meant many piles of neatly bagged garbage on the curb, but also a few ripped-open piles of trash, and a bit of extra road-kill. We passed a gloriously fluffy dead red dog on the shoulder of a two-lane road, a recently squashed cat, a severed opossum, a flattened skunk and a matched set of gorgeous, gruesome giant dead rabbits being pecked at be an equally over-sized matched pair of crows.
It took three tries to check-in, owing to how early we were, and the front desk’s insistence that we were just too early to have a room.  We paid them back by parking in front and falling asleep in the Grand Cherokee, windows open, limbs hanging out.  When we were finally given access to our room, the manager had emerged to supervise the transaction. “What brings you to Ohio?” he asked.
I told him my middle son would be attending the College of Wooster in the fall.
“I have to ask,” he replied. “What would make you choose to come all the way from Washington to Ohio, just to go to a school like that?”
The middle son provided a thoughtful and honest answer.  I thought about roadkill.