Tag: college

That time I was in two places at once

imageThese days, I often wish there were two of me — one to do the dirty dishes and the other to lounge by the pool.

“If only I had more time,” I say. That’s my new mantra. I grumble it as I leave the house to take my daughter to school or stop at the drug store or run to the post office. Usually, I’m dressed in old sweats and flip-flops, no makeup on and my hair looking like a discarded bird’s nest. If I had a clone, I could catch up on some z’s, and I wouldn’t have to leave the house without a shower.

In my fantasy, I send the clone to the day job and spend the afternoon writing my next novel at Starbucks over a chai tea latte. I’m also 30 pounds lighter and I’m eating a cinnamon roll. (Hey, if I’m going to fantasize, I might as well make it good, right?)

Anyway, in case you are wondering, I do know no one can really be in two places at the same time. I have not totally lost it (yet).

But recently, I got to thinking about this. And then I started googling, and the more I learned, the more I began to wonder….

Law of quantum physics
Scientists say it is possible to be in two places at once — if you are a subatomic particle. You see, in the world of quantum physics, which operates on a different principle than our reality, a tiny object is neither a particle, nor a wave. It is in a constant state of flux and therefore, is a bit of both depending on how it is viewed. This means it can be moving or still simultaneously. In other words, it can take two different paths at the same time. (I sound intelligent, don’t I? Thank you, Wikipedia).

Of course this does not apply in our reality — the real world, so to speak. We can’t be in two places at once…can we?

Famous saints
According to many, Padre Pio could do it. This modern day Catholic saint, who died in 1968, was widely known to have the ability to bilocate or be in two places at the same time. Many witnesses have come forward to confirm this claim. Of course, skeptics say Padre Pio was a fraud. He also suffered from the stigmata — the wounds of Jesus Christ — and was accused of using carbolic acid to create the wounds.

And yet…here I go again diving into something I never thought I would ever write about in a blog post — I have had the experience of being in two places at the same time. My mind, not my body. Let me explain.

Hot date
I am 19 and home from college for the summer. I am getting ready to go to church, a forced commandment in my parent’s home, no matter how disinterested I am at the time. My younger sister is getting ready to go on a date with a new boy. “No fair,” I think. “Why does she get to go on a date, while I’m stuck in church.”

The doorbell rings, interrupting my private pity party, and my sister begs me to get the door so she can continue to prep. I do and am surprised by the boy who is standing there — he’s quite cute — clean-shaven, blond hair and in blue jeans. I’m surprised because my sister’s choices in men are generally more rough around the edges than mine — usually a few tattoos and earrings. This boy looks like someone I might choose.

“Take a seat,” I say, gesturing to a chair in the kitchen. “She’ll be right down.”

I take off back up the stairs so I can finish blow-drying my hair. On the way up, I exchange a few words with my sis.

“Hey, he’s in blue jeans. You’d better change from that fancy dress to something more casual.”

My sister is in panic mode. “We’re going to a movie, and we’re already late. There’s no time,” she tells me, flying down the stairs.”

“Have fun,” I call after her.

And that, readers, is when the magic happened.

Two places at once
You see, I was still blow drying my hair. My mind, however? Well, my mind was curious. It was busy wondering what my sister’s hot date was thinking when he saw how dressed up she was. So, it took off down the stairs after her.

Many hours later, my sister walked through the door, blathering on about her incredible date.

“Do you think he likes me?” she asked.

“Yes, I do,” I told her. “Didn’t you see his face when you came downstairs?”

“No, how did he look?”

“He looked really happy to see you.”

I went on to describe other details. We must have talked for an hour before I arrived at a shocking realization. How could I possibly know what his face looked like or any other details when my sister came downstairs? I hadn’t been downstairs when they left. I had been upstairs blow-drying my hair.

The realization hit both of us at once, and we stared across the bedroom, our startled faces mirroring one another.

“How can that be?” she asked. “I swear I felt your hand on my shoulder as I went downstairs.”

“I know,” I say. “I remember following you downstairs. That’s how I saw what he looked like. I was right behind you.”

“But you weren’t,” she said.

“No, I wasn’t. I never went downstairs. It’s…impossible.”

That night I pondered the mystery. Years later, I am still pondering. My body never left the upstairs. But somehow, my mind did.

Maybe it has something to do with those subatomic particles?

Across the divide: Finding friendship, fashion and acceptance in a college dormitory

Me and my hair, newly permed and ready for action.

Me and my hair — newly permed and ready for action.

I remember the day I met her. She strolled over from next door and introduced herself to me and my roommate, Katie,* friendly like.

“Wampum,” she said. “That’s hello in Jamaican.”

Her skin was as dark as the color of black walnuts, and she laughed a lot. I liked her right from the start.

It was the first semester of my freshman year in college, and I was having a tough time getting acclimated to dorm life. I had grown up simply, out in the country with plenty of fresh air and food but not much in the way of expensive gadgets or fine clothes. I didn’t wear makeup and kept my hair in a perpetual ponytail.

My new friend was about to change all that. “If I had your looks, the guys would be tumbling over me,” she told me. “Why don’t you put on a little makeup and wear something cute? C’mon, let’s see what you have.”

And just like that she dragged me over to the closet and began pulling out clothes until she found what she wanted. “Here, wear this,” she said.

When she couldn’t locate the perfect shirt to complement my skirt, she pulled me into her room and went into her own closet to find the best blue color. “To match those eyes,” she said.

I had never had someone fuss over me, especially not an exotic, new friend with style who was raised in New York City. I found myself opening up, like a delicate flower in the presence of the right combination of temperature and sunlight.

“Girl, we need to get you to the beauty shop,” she told me, chuckling heartily. “You leave it to me. I know a good place. It’s not a place I’ve ever been to cause they wouldn’t know how to do a black girl’s hair. But it’s where all the white girls go.”

We took the bus that ran across campus into the nearby town and entered a fancy salon. I only had $40 in cash and the haircut and perm cost $60, but the stylist was kind and agreed to do the job for what I could offer.

A rare image of me with a perm. Sadly, I did not own a camera and never snapped a photo of my first college buddies.

A rare image of me with my first perm. Sadly, I did not own a camera and never snapped a photo of my first college buddies.

I stepped into that shop a country girl and came out a sophisticated college student. My long, straight hair was now six inches shorter and consisted of tiny ringlets. As a bonus, the perm lightened the plain brown color into a golden blond. For the first time in 18 years, I felt beautiful.

That evening, the three of us went out on the town and like Cinderella, I met what seemed like a fairy prince (although later he turned out to be the green, toad variety). It was the first of many fun outings and midnight conversations over popcorn and hot chocolate.

Late one night, as we studied for finals, each in our own bedroom, we heard the sound of shattering glass, screams, and two sets of footsteps running through the hall. “He’s got a knife,” someone yelled.

“Let me in. Let me in.” The raw pounding on the resident advisor’s door across the way (or RA as we called her), reflected the panic of the knocker.

I cracked open our door to catch the action and was just in time to see a girl slip through as a man with a knife went flying by. I closed my door quickly and locked it.

There was a long silence. No one knew what to do.

“Amanda, Katie, you okay?” Her scared little voice was so close, it sounded like it was coming from within our room. For some reason, Katie and I looked at each other and burst out laughing.

“Where are you? Are you in the….closet?” I opened my closet door but no one was there. The walls were so paper-thin, that when she was in her own closet, it sounded like she was in mine.

“Yeeess,” she said, and I could hear the quiver in her voice. Clearly, she was frightened.

“Why are you hiding in the closet?”

“Ain’t that what you’re supposed to do? Girl, I’m from New York. That’s the first thing they teach you. If someone’s attacking, you’re supposed to hide.”

Growing friendship
We went to see a movie together: Jumpin’ Jack Flash. The show starred Whoopie Goldberg. I don’t remember anything about the film. What I do remember is that we were three friends, hanging out: A former cheerleader and student council president (my roommate), a country bumpkin (me) and a New Yorker with a funny, Jamaican accent.

There was no prejudice between us, no black versus white issues, no police brutality or white supremacy. It was a time of friendship and a blooming perspective. We talked politics, religion, death and taxes and found common ground. We shared some of our most painful memories and happiest dreams. We laughed, we cried, and we hugged often.

Over winter break, I took her to meet my family, and she worked her magic on my parents. So much so that my father, who had never entertained an African American at his dinner table, kissed her cheek when she departed.

She left me at the end of the semester. She wasn’t happy with her major and had run out of money. Katie and I also parted ways at the end of that year. She went to the “quiet” floor, and I stayed behind to enjoy a little noise with my studying.

A new perspective
The years have passed like gray dots on a rolling filmstrip. I have had many friendships since then. Some carried me through graduate school. Some were there when I got married. A few witnessed the birth of my three children. Many are still involved in my life today. But none carry quite the same sweet innocence, openness and profound acceptance as my first college buddies.

Sadly, those two girls have disappeared from my landscape like shooting stars in the night sky. I haven’t found them on Twitter, Facebook or any other online media. Still, in my mind, we remain in innocence, giggling at the absurdities of life, exchanging confidences and beauty secrets, and listening to one another with focused appreciation and a matching desire that all our wishes would one day come true.

*Names have been changed.

A story of snails and puppy dog tails

In a few short weeks, my little boy, who now towers over me at 6′ 3,” will head off to college. How can that be? Just yesterday, I was wiping his bottom and bandaging his bruised knees. I was bribing him with Subway in the mall so that he would stop zipping by in his roller shoes and put on the little vintage outfit with bow tie the photographer wanted him to wear. I was reading every Harry Potter book in the series to him as he lay in bed at night and begged, “Just one more chapter, mom, please, please.”

The soon-to-be-college student who posed for a picture in bowtie after his mom bribed him with Subway.

The soon-to-be-college student, who posed for a picture in bowtie, after his mom bribed him with a Subway sandwich.

From the time your kids are small, everyone tells you to enjoy it because childhood goes fast. They aren’t lying. It does go fast.

I remember when that same little boy went off to kindergarten 13 years ago. His mother was a wee bit worried. I wrote in my journal:

“What if the other kids or teachers aren’t kind to him? What if he gets lost or can’t find his classroom, or can’t get on the right bus home? What if he hates school?”

Thankfully, none of those imaginings came to pass. The other children did treat him well, he did make friends and yes, he did find his way home from school. He loved learning, maintaining near perfect attendance all 12 years and graduating with a 4.0. and a strong passion for computer coding.

Still, it is in moments like these, when the old wheel of life takes another spin, that I pause and reflect. Life is ever-changing and this moment — our now — will never be quite the same. I can’t ever go back and reclaim that inquisitive little boy who asked me at all hours of the day, “What time is it in Japan right now, mom?” He no longer wants to snuggle on my lap as I sing made up nursery rhymes about the lawn mower in the garage. And more often than not these days, he’s instructing me on what cell phone to buy, where to get free movies, what songs are popular and the best places to grab a cheeseburger.

As he packs his bags to leave home, I have new concerns: Will his roommates be nice and treat him well? Will he like his classes? Find a girlfriend? Avoid serious drinking and drugs? Have fun? Graduate?

I hope in five years I am writing another blog post talking about his many successes. But there are no guarantees.

As I wrote in my journal so long ago, “It is time for him to begin this new phase in life — a phase where mom and dad can’t be by his side, watching and protecting. I must put my faith in the kindness of strangers and hope that they treat him well. And although I know what is happening is right and good, I can’t help but shed a tear for what I must lose in the process. And I know that I will shed those tears every time he takes these steps.”

And so my smile remains fixed in place, but those tears are not far away.

Farewell, my son. May God bless you on your journey through college.

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