and this is true, too

Translucent

“and this,” she perked,
pointing to the closed-door office
to her right,
“is the business office.”
“and this,” she perked
pointing to the closed-door office
to her left,
“is the financial aid office.”

“above us,” she continued,
“is the
President’s Office
saying the last two words
with a distinct tone of
reverence.
“you don’t want to get sent
there.”

maybe it’s because we’re nearing the end of
the second week of back-to-back
college tours.
maybe it’s because it’s hot.
maybe it’s because i need chocolate.
maybe it’s because i’m just plain cranky to the core . . .

“but you can,” i countered
looking my nephew straight in the eyes,
“go there any time of your own initiative.”
then i told them about how when i was a student there,
and discovered that
the tape player had been stolen from my car,
i marched straightaway to the
president’s office
(said without a hint of reverence)
and announced “my tape player was stolen.”
to which the president looked across his massive desk
and said,
“well, i’m SURE it wasn’t a student.”
“can you believe a
college president
led with something
so stupid?”
i asked my nephew.

“i said don’t get SENT there,”
she perked
directly at my nephew.

“bitch,”
i thought
cause i’m not
anywhere near the
sweet zen woman
i (sometimes) long to be.

when we reached the student union,
the mailboxes
more specifically,
i mentioned how
when i was a student there,
the mailboxes were in a different building
and i was assigned a mailbox on the top row,
so high i couldn’t get the key in the lockv
without the assistance of a stool.
she listened, then reached up
and tapped the top mailbox
with a key she held.

“bitch,”
i thought
because
well, you know.

“and the most fun thing of all,” she said,
her perkiness ratcheted up
three full notches,
“is when you get a yellow
sheet of paper
saying that you have a
package.
when you get one of those,
you come to this window
and pick up your package.
did you ever get
any yellow papers?”
she asked me.

“yes, i got yellow notices,
but it could sometimes
take up to two weeks
for me to actually
lay hands on my package
because the people
employed to staff the window
didn’t actually
open the window
unless they had absolutely
nothing else to do.
but the good news is: it was
most always worth the wait.”

with that, she whipped her head around
and asked
“did anything good ever happen
when you were here?”

to which i said
“there were moments.”

and then i kept my stories
to myself
and as we walked
and she talked
i wondered
why i told the
particular stories
i told.
what compelled me?

with the possible
exception of the
president’s office story,
which was pretty obviously
a thumbing my nose
at authority,
(though it was also
about not being afraid
to go to the top,
if that seems the right
thing to do at the time)
my stories
seemed
to theme around
overcoming
adversity.
of providing a counter
to the sparkling
wonderfulness
being presented.
is it a good school, this one?
oh yes,
it’s a good school.
do bad things happen there?
absolutely, undeniably
yes.
and i’m just too cranky
to let that reality
and the ensuing opportunities for lessons of
resiliency
and assertiveness
and resourcefulness
go
unnoticed.

9 Comments

  1. Karen Sharp

    i’m just too cranky

    to let that reality

    and their opportunities for lessons of

    resiliency

    and assertiveness

    and resourcefulness

    go

    unnoticed.

    I don’t think that’s crankiness.

    I think that’s strength and honesty and realness.
    Resiliency and assertiveness and resourcefulness.

    I think that’s the crucial art of noticing what is often deliberately unnoticed. And saying and noticing these things is precisely what gives others the strength to be honest and real, to be resilient, assertive and resourceful.

    Perkiness and artificiality don’t give any strength, and won’t help anyone accomplish anything that really matters. Including even for that woman herself.

    I think it’s an important gift you gave to your nephew, your “cranky” truthtelling. I think you were responsible and strong and wise, and doing your job, to be so cranky on your nephew’s behalf. I would have been very grateful for an aunt to have done for me what you did for him, when I departed for college. It might have saved me from some crippling difficulties based on my trying to hide my truths and my crankiness with artificial perkiness.

    So I’ll thank you now, on his behalf and my own, for your crankiness. And what a good thing it is, too.

    • whollyjeanne

      Thank you, Sugar. Look forward to reconnecting now that I’ll be tucked in for a while. Can’t wait to read your words of wisdom. You are such a treasure.

  2. Shannon

    Fantastic. I giggled and cheered you on when you got all “bitchy”. because, you know…

    • whollyjeanne

      I thought that was you I heard giggling and cheering . . .

  3. Kira

    I love this one! I wish I’d had you around on my college tours. 

    • whollyjeanne

      I wish you had, too, Sugar. I am honored that my nephew asked me to go tour undergraduate schools, and years ago my niece asked me to tour law schools with her. Could be because of my irreverence, but ’twas probably because I paid for the trip.

  4. Meredith

    You gave me a couple of giggles. Sometimes those college tour guides can be a little too perky. Of course, the best advice I ever received from a college tour guide was to steer clear of the Pikes. Pikes are notorious for being a very, very shady frat pretty much anywhere you go, too.

    • whollyjeanne

      Isn’t that funny how fraternities tend to share the same culture across campus lines? I went to 3 undergraduate schools, and the Sigma Phi Epsilons tended to be good boys – as in good grades, responsible boys. The Kappa Sig’s were notoriously (and consistently) drunk and bawdy. And I called the Sigma Nu’s snakes because for all their good looks and debonaire demeanors, they would steal dates from each other like nobody’s business. Pikes? I never encountered them, but I sure heard stories . . .

      • whollyjeanne

        oh, and i married a theta chi. go figure.

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