“Now that the adoption’s final and Kiki’s settling into school OK, I think I should apply to college again,” Ira says to Case one morning.
“It’s a great idea,” he says. “I appreciate you waiting, for all this to settle out, but I think we’re ready, right?”
“I feel super nervous. I was so upset when I got rejected last time. I really took a big hit emotionally. Do you think I can handle it if I don’t get in again?”
“First, I really think you’ll get in. You’ve been working for years to prep for the entrance exams, and you’ve developed your painting so well, too. I know you’ll ace the logic portion of the test. And we can work on your essay together.”
“Moira was going to help me,” Ira says. “I just feel so sad going through with this stage without her.”
“True. That sucks. She would want you to go through with it. She’d want me to step up to give you the support you need, and I’ll do that, best I can. I know I don’t have Moira’s warmth or instincts for emotional support. But I’ll do what I can, and if I’m not helping in the way you need, just let me know, and I can do better.”
“I don’t really feel like taking emotional risks right now,” Ira says. “I mean, Kiki needs us to be stable, right?”
“Kiki needs us to take risks,” Case says, “especially emotional ones. Doing so, we show her that it’s OK if you don’t feel great and happy all the time. We can feel grief or disappointed or messed up or nervous, and the world’s not going to end. We’ll get through it. That’s the best thing we can do for Kiki.”
At supper that night, Case tells Kiki that Ira’s going to apply to college to study art.
“She’s already the best artist,” Kiki says, “but that will be cool for other people to find that out, too.”
“It’s about time,” says Aadhya, who’s dropped by and is helping out by catching up on the dishes. “You know it takes at least four years, sometimes longer, especially for older students, to finish a degree. We’re not getting any younger.”
“Older and wiser,” says Case. “Thanks for helping out, Aadhya.”
“Anytime,” she replies. “Always happy to help. Which is a good thing, as I expect you’ll be needing more of that around here, once Ira begins her studies.”
“That’s assuming I get in,” says Ira, who’s come downstairs to see if Kiki needs homework help.
“Oh, you’ll get in,” say Aadhya and Case at the same time.
“Of course you’ll get in,” chimes up Kiki. “You’re the best artist in the house!”
A few weeks later, and the entrance exam has been taken with scores en route, the application has been completed, and the essay has been written, torn and shredded, written again, ripped up, written another time, revised, edited, tossed in the trash, and written one last time, proofread, and ready to mail with the application packet.
“I have such a good feeling about this,” Case says. “Life is about to get very interesting!”
“I am not even letting myself feel,” says Ira. “Or breathe. I think I’ll hold my breath until I hear back. And if I don’t get in, I’ll sob and carry on, and then I’ll be breathing so hard, and if I do get in, I will sigh in relief. Either way, I’ll breathe then.”
But the application packet goes in the mail, with a wish and a prayer, and even when they wait, life goes on. And Ira does breathe while she waits.
And the weeks turn to months, and one sunny day, the postal delivery person stops by to raise the red flag, notifying the Donovan Mahajan Flores household that there’s something in the mailbox.
“Ah! Life is good!” says the postal delivery person. Most people feel that way in Port Promise these days–the air is just so clear, so pure, and even so quiet, you can hear the bees buzz.
“Thanks for bringing the mail,” Ira says, stalling, trying to calm down a bit before she sees what came. This is the week the university admissions said they’d be sending out acceptance letters, and hard as Ira has tried to distract herself enough to forget that, it’s about the only thing that’s been on her mind.
She fills a few moments with small talk until the postal delivery person says she needs to be going now, more deliveries to make, and so on.
Ira takes a big breath. Case has told her, nearly every day, that whatever happens, they can handle it.
At last, she reaches into the mail box. It’s a thick envelope this time, addressed to her.
Dear Ira Mahajan,
We are happy…
And that’s all she can read.
“We are happy” means she got in, and she can read all the details later, because right now, if they are happy, she is happy, for if they are happy, it means she got in, and if she got in, it means…
She, Ira Mahajan, first generation college student, at the ripe old age of nearly middle-aged, is going to college! She got in!
She got in, and she’s going to be an art student.
And she’s also have to take literature courses, and probably a math course, and history. Maybe economics. Film theory. Probably something with ceramics. Textile studies. Feminist theory. History of the Oppressed. Macroeconomic theory of nano particles. Oh, crap.
Who was she kidding? There is no way she’s ready for this. How is she even going to find the time to study?
And besides, Kiki and Case need her. And who is she kidding? College? Her? She’ll never amount to anything. Her mom was right. Don’t set your sights too high. Settle for what you’ve got.
OK, it’s not too late. She can just not accept. And Case and Kiki don’t even need to find out that the letter came. They’ll just carry on as if it never got delivered. “Oh, I guess my application must have gotten misplaced,” she’ll say.
It’ll be easier that way.
“She’d want me to step up and give you the support you needed,” Ira remembers Case saying. Case’s life hasn’t been easy, and he’s always been stepping up. Was it easy to go through the process of adopting Kiki? It was hard. But if they hadn’t done it, what would Kiki’s life be like? Has it been easy for him to be an ecological engineer? It’s been hard, especially when he needs to interact with other people, but look at what an impact he’s made.
“Kiki needs us to take risks,” Case had said. That was the most important point of all.
Though she didn’t like to admit it, and it didn’t fit with the image she projected, Ira was not always one to take risks. Growing up, she never felt she had the emotional support to do so. But maybe it’s time to change.
She’s got the emotional support now.
OK. She would do it! She would accept!
Maybe she’ll fail in a blazing glory of vermillion F’s, but hell or high water, she’s going to college!