An Accidental Reunion

An accidental reunion.

Earlier this week, I told my teenage daughter to pack a bag, because we were making an impromptu trip to a college in another state for an “unofficial” visit. She’s a rising high school junior, so it’s time to start getting an idea about where she might like to continue her education. Most admissions offices at colleges are not open now because of COVID, so “official” visits aren’t happening, but what was to stop us from going to a campus and checking things out on our own? Since it seems all we have done is go to the beach this summer, I was ready to roll to almost anywhere that wasn’t the beach. So we quickly packed our bags with a single change of clothes and the essentials, and we hit the road.

When I say we packed “essentials,” I mean we absolutely packed bare bones. I took a change of clothes, something to sleep in, any medications we might need, and toiletries…hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant. That’s it. I didn’t take makeup, because we were just going to be staying for one night and weren’t going to spend any time socializing. On the way out of town, we did a swing through the ChickFilA drive-thru for some lunch, and my daughter made a hotel reservation for us while I drove.

We had 3 1/2 hours to talk while we were on our way there, and because we took the scenic route, we had lots of cute little towns to see and some beautiful scenery too!

We arrived on the college campus at about 4:30 in the afternoon and went straight to the campus bookstore. I learned a long time ago that the campus bookstore is a good place to start. It’s usually easy to find, and shopping is always fun! We purchased a few items before the store closed at 5pm, and we set out driving around, trying to get a feel for the university. We looked at dorms…all from the outside of course…and we also got a feel for the campus by looking for different areas…the science buildings, education buildings, athletic facilities, sorority and fraternity housing…and of course, the always important football stadium, which was impressive, for sure.

We then checked into our hotel and walked to dinner at a nearby restaurant to discuss everything we had seen. While we were at dinner, I posted a few pictures, and then…bam! Two of my friends from college who live nearby commented, reminding me that they live there! How had I forgotten they lived there?!?! I have seen one of them a few times over the last couple of years, when she visited Charlotte, and I last saw the other one nine years ago when we had a planned reunion at the Virginia Creeper bike trail. After hearing from them, we scheduled a lunch for the next day…an accidental reunion! What an amazing surprise in the middle of this road trip!

The next morning, my daughter and I checked out a few more things on the college campus before meeting my “old” friends for lunch! Here’s the great thing about being 53 and getting together with friends from college…it’s always comfortable! It’s always easy! There was absolutely no awkwardness about it as we reminisced about old times but laughed and talked about what’s going on in our lives now too. The three of us met when we were 18 and 19 years old, and here we are…more than 30 years later…still able to fall right back in where we left off…without missing a beat! We talked about funny memories…it was the 80s when we were in college, after all! And they weren’t appalled by and didn’t make fun of my makeup-free, t-shirt clad look!

We’re all 30+ years older and wiser. I’d be willing to bet we’re even 30 years more fun…which would be quite an accomplishment, since we were a lot of fun in college! Next time I’m there, we’ll make time for some fun! One friend has a grown daughter in her 20s, and the other has two boys…both college age. I’m behind the curve with a 16-yr-old, but I loved that my daughter was there to meet these lovely ladies I’ve known for more than half my life. She enjoyed meeting them, and afterward, she told me she had decided, after meeting them, that maybe I was cool when I was younger after all! I’m not sure what she thought I was like before, but apparently, she wasn’t sure I was “cool.”

Over lunch, we also talked about actually planning a reunion…maybe another trip to the Virginia Creeper Trail, since it’s fun, super easy, and in a cute town. Last time, we stayed at the lovely Martha Washington Inn in Abingdon (for info, click here) and took in a show at the Barter Theater, the State Theater of Virginia. The Barter is even staging shows during COVID at a local closed drive-in theater! (For info on The Barter Theater, click here.) Maybe next time, we can stay at the Martha Washington Inn again and look for some ghosts while we’re there. I’ve heard the place is haunted, but we didn’t encounter any spooky visitors while we were there. And the restaurant at the hotel, called Sisters, was fabulous.

Even more exciting to me is the possibility that I could see these ladies more often if my daughter opts to go to college in the town where they live! Wow! I could visit my daughter and hang out with my old friends too! Plus, she would have a couple of surrogate moms nearby.

I’m so glad we had our accidental reunion! It was a bright spot in the middle of all this COVID madness…a much needed visit with some dear friends.

 

Favorite College Care Packages

I had lunch recently with a friend from college. She has lived just about 45 minutes from me for years, and we didn’t even realize it till about three years ago. Last month, we finally went to lunch after talking about it for a long time, and now, we’ve decided to make it a monthly thing. She has four children, and her oldest is a freshman in college. She told me she is putting together a Halloween-themed care package to send him, including lots of his favorite little treats, and it reminded me of care packages my own mother used to send me…over thirty years ago, when I was in college. She was really good about sending boxes of fun, silly things, and sometimes, she would just send something as simple as a sweatshirt or a pair of fuzzy socks, but it always made me smile.

These days, it’s easier than ever to send care packages, and I’ll get into the easy ones later, but Mother used to send me things she had bundled herself, and those care packages were hard to beat. Don’t all college students love to get mail and packages? Sometimes, she would send small packages just for me, and sometimes, she would send a bigger bundle for me and a roommate. Here are a few examples of things she did:

  • Halloween Care Package in October. It included silly Halloween socks, the kind you get in the Dollar Spot at Target; my favorite Halloween candies; a few favorite snacks (chips, cereal bars, etc); plastic spiders; rubber snakes; glow-in-the dark plastic teeth; wax teeth; Halloween hair ties; Halloween t-shirt (you can get some pretty inexpensive ones in Walmart and Target); and if she were sending it now, she would have definitely included some gift cards to local eateries.Exam Care Package. At the end of November, she would send a big box as a care package for final exams. She would include lots of favorite snacks: Toastchee Crackers,Microwave Popcorn, Chips, Breakfast Bars, and some favorite candy. She might also include a MadLibs book…great stress-relieve entertainment for silly college students. A couple of People and Us Magazines were good for taking a break from studying. And she might have included some silly childhood toys like YoYos, Jacks, a Gyro-Wheel, an Etch A Sketch, and even a Wooly Willy…see below. Oh…and temporary tattoos…always fun. Squirt guns were a big hit! Childhood toys were always fun, because they were good for a laugh. Friends from all over the hall would take study breaks and come to my room to play with those silly toys.
  • Winter Care Package. In late January, she would send a Winter Care Package that included cheap gloves for me and my roommate, warm socks for both of us, cheap sock hats, a warm sweatshirt for each of us, packages of powdered hot chocolate, cheap ear muffs, and maybe some travel magazines that showed sunny destinations.

You get the picture. As the year progressed, she tried to put together thoughtful bundles. Sometimes they were all very similar, but she would include just one or two special items for a holiday….like those packages of Valentines you get in elementary school…she knew it would be fun for us to tape those on the doors of friends on our hall.

And after I graduated from college and moved to Atlanta, she would still send me care packages. My favorite was one she sent to me and my roommate in December. It was an Advent calendar in a box. The days weren’t on it, but there were two of the same wrapped gifts for every day of Advent, and she had the gifts numbered. I wish I could remember everything she sent. On the first day of Advent, we opened Christmas stockings. We didn’t have a fireplace, so I think we just hung them on the bar. The next day, we likely opened…you guessed it…socks. Big fat candy canes might have been day 3. Light-up antlers might have been day 4. Lights to hang in our apartment could have been day 5. You get the picture. She wrapped anything Christmas-themed she could find and put it into the box. 

Nowadays, though, if you don’t want to take the time to put together a care package, you can simply order online and have them shipped to your student. Simply go to Amazon.com and find regular care packages, but if you want themed packages, simply input what you’re looking for. I entered “Halloween Care Package” on the Amazon search, and I got several options. You can see them here. Another option is a monthly subscription to care packages through College Care Packages…see their options here. I have also found a fun company called Hip Kits that puts together care packages for college students, and they are a little different than the ones on Amazon. See Hip Kits here. 

And for some other unique care package ideas, go to Etsy.com and enter “care packages,” and you’ll get lots of unique results. Click here to see some of the options.

Also, don’t forget restaurant gift cards make great surprises for college students. Sometimes, too, I’ll just Venmo a little money to college students I know, and when I do, I say it’s for WAM (walking around money) and I add the emoji of the person walking plus the emoji showing a bag of money.

 

When I was in college and in my 20s, any time I left my parents’ house, Daddy would give me some “walking around money,” which we also called “WAM.” If you aren’t familiar with the Venmo app, it’s time to get with the program. It’s super easy to send money to friends/family with Venmo. If my daughter picks up the tab for her friend at Starbucks, the friend will send her $5 via Venmo. Get it?

But no matter what little happy surprise you choose to send your child…or someone else’s…they will be grateful. College is fun, but it can be stressful, and it’s always fun to receive a package or some walking around money.

College Orientation for Parents

I’m not poking fun. My child won’t be going off to college for three more years, so please don’t think I’m poking fun at students or parents, but I have a question:

When did colleges start having orientation for parents?

Like I said, I’m not poking fun, but when I went off to college orientation…way back in 1985…my parents didn’t go with me. In fact, I don’t recall seeing any parents there, and I certainly don’t recall any orientation sessions just for the parents. Of course, my memory could be failing. My parents felt college was my adventure.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it. It just seems strange to me. Going off to college is a rite of passage for lots of new high school graduates, and to me, it was part of growing up. It was the beginning of more independence. It was something I did on my own. I don’t mean I paid for it. Nope…my parents paid…but they didn’t go to orientation with me.

They did go with me when I moved into the dorm my freshman year. They wouldn’t have missed that, and I wouldn’t have wanted them to miss it. But as soon as everything was moved in, we went to lunch, and they were on their way home. They didn’t want to stick around long enough for there to be any tears. Things have changed since 1985, and like I said, I’m not knocking it, but it seems like an interesting step… backward.

Trust me…when my daughter goes to college, I’ll be one of the parents participating in the parent orientation sessions, because I will feel like a terrible parent if I don’t. I don’t want to be the only one who doesn’t go; I don’t need to get those dirty looks and whispers…I get enough of those now, and she’s not even in college yet! But why did colleges feel like they needed to start having parent orientation sessions?

I don’t have an answer. I don’t even know when it started.

When we were kids, we ran all over the neighborhood all summer. We were outside from the moment we got up till the neighborhood street lights came on…and sometimes later, if we got permission to play Kick the Can at a friend’s house. We loved playing Kick the Can in the dark…hiding behind trees, dashing about and trying not to giggle. We rode our bikes for miles a day. We went to different friends’ houses. And guess what? We didn’t even have cell phones! Not even a bag phone! Those things weren’t around yet. To find us, our parents had to go outside and call our names, or they had to call around to various friends’ houses, or they had to drive around the neighborhood.

It’s not that way anymore. We’ve all been told our kids will be kidnapped if they play outside. We think they’ll end up in the emergency room if they are left unsupervised.

Is the cell phone to blame?

Starting in the late 80s, people really starting getting cell phones, and the cell phone became more and more popular and sophisticated as time went on. Unlike any time before, we could all call each other anywhere, anytime. And with smart phones, we can now see where people are at any time. I have the Life 360 app, and I can see where my daughter’s phone is all the time. Does that mean she is with the phone? Probably…teenagers these days go nowhere without their phones. But don’t be fooled…there are ways to get around Life 360.

I know one teen who downloaded Life 360 to his iPad and removed it from his smartphone.  While he was out and about with his cellphone, his iPad was safely tucked away anywhere he wanted it to be, so it looked like he was where he was supposed to be. It’s true. If you want to keep tabs on your child’s whereabouts and you pay for the cellphone, you might want to check that.

Parents know the whereabouts of their children…even college students…all the time. I thank my lucky stars every single day that my parents couldn’t always see where I was! Yet, I want my daughter to have the Life 360 app on her phone. Even when she goes to college, I will likely want her to have the app, and I will likely check it from time to time.

But will I want to go to parent orientation sessions at her college? I doubt it. I hate “mandatory” meetings…always have. If you want me to come to a meeting, invite me like it’s a party…and maybe give away prizes…and I’ll be all in. I especially hate meetings that are a waste of my time. Why do I need to know about her college or university? As far as I’m concerned, I’m supposed to move her in, pay for it all, visit occasionally, and talk with her regularly. I’m not calling for everyone to boycott parent orientation sessions. Some folks probably love the idea. I just think it’s strange that it wasn’t considered necessary for so long, and now, college has become a family affair.

By the time our daughter does off to college, if things keep “progressing” the way they have been, parents will have to go to class with their college freshmen for the first week of school.

Good luck to all of you who are attending parent orientation sessions this summer. God willing, I will be doing it too one day…but I don’t think I will like it.

tim-gouw-ScWvHUtQca4-unsplash