I took my college entrance exams, and guess what? I got accepted! Guess what else? I qualified for full scholarship in three subjects: phys ed, communications, and fine arts. Guess what else? I earned 18 Advanced Placement credits in each! I’m so excited! I’m going to college.
I was still trying to decide what major to pick when I asked Riley how she did.
“I didn’t take the exam,” Riley said.
“Well, you’d better hurry. We’re leaving soon.”
“I’m not going to take it,” she said. “I’m not going.”
“Not going? You have to go!” I said. “That was the plan! That’s the dream!”
“It’s your dream,” Riley said. “It always has been. I’ve never wanted to go to college. I want to stay home.”
“It’s true,” she said. “Remember when I was voted ‘Most likely to never leave home?’ That might seem like a joke to some, but to me, that’s my dream.”
“Not everyone wants what you want,” she told me. “You go, because it would give you joy. But what’s more important? Just doing something because it’s expected, or because it’s someone else’s dream? Or doing what you want, even if it lets down someone else’s expectations, because it’s your dream?”
“Is this because of Argus?” I asked her.
“No,” she replied. “I talked with Argus about it. He was all ready to support me in going away to university. But I’d already made up my mind, even before Argus and I went out. I just didn’t know how to tell you.”
“I wish you were so afraid of me that you’d go anyway!” I said. “Just because it was what I wanted. I imagined you, after all.”
“I’m sorry. It’s just. I was so looking forward to rooming with you in the dorm, and going to parties with you, and studying all night! Now! Oh! It’s like my dream’s been torn in two.”
“I’m sorry. I hate disappointing you. But a dorm? With strangers? Who don’t wash their dishes and leave dirty towels laying around and forget to bathe? And parties? I hate parties! And studying all night? I’d hate to have to study. I hate all those things.”
Oh, Mom. It was so hard to listen to Riley. I felt so sure that college was the best thing for her. Half of me still feels that way. But I had to listen when she told me what she loves: taking care of our home, caring for Zoey and Roxy, being here for Patches and Bo. And, yes, she admitted that she was looking forward to spending more time with Argus.
“Women worked hard and fought for equal rights so we’d have a choice,” she told me, “not so that we’d all have to march to the same drummer. I’ve looked in my heart, Mari. This is what I want.”
She’s right. Even I can see that. It breaks my heart to leave alone, Mom, but I guess I’ve got to do it.
On my departure day, the shuttle arrived in the early morning to take me to the airport. Riley had gotten up with me so we could have breakfast together.
“Write me, ” she said.
“Of course!” I replied.
The kids were still asleep, and I was hoping to have lucked out and avoided having to say goodbye to them. I worried it would break my heart.
When I got into the shuttle, I looked back at the house. There was Patches, coming out to wave goodbye.
And then Bo came racing out, waving his arms and making crazy faces! I was laughing so hard I couldn’t cry! Oh, Mom! I am going to miss this nutty family.
Good thing I got advanced placement–it means I’ll only be away from home for two terms.
And when I come back, I’ll have a degree!
Oh! I forgot to tell you what program I chose! I’m going for fine arts. I figured that phys ed came naturally, and communications fits with my career–so both of those, I’ll be working on anyway. So I decided to challenge myself and major in fine arts. Just like you did! I want to be well-rounded. That’s why I chose what would be most difficult.
Oh, Mom! I’m going to your alma mater, and I’m majoring in your degree! Maybe I’ll even live in your dorm!
I’m going to miss you so much, too. I wonder if I’ll feel your spirit there on campus…