Precious firstborn returns home with facial hair

November 6, 2012

Oh, they’ll be home soon enough. Yes, they’ll be back for their fall midterm break, or at the very least, the November holiday. It seems like yesterday that you sent them off to college with all the dreams and expectations on that road to success they talked about at their high school commencement.

But that road to success might just have taken some unexpected turns. If I were you, I would call before I embarked to pick up that freshman student from college. You see, you have to treat this much like an airline reservation. The plane is never on time and often delayed or cancelled. For some reason that first year tends to be a fog for a lot of students. It particularly rolls in heavily if it’s been a tradition from junior high school.

There will be a lot of changes in the short amount of time since you last set eyes on them; you might want to bring a photo. Their appearance will be a little different. They will have grown what is very popular now, facial hair around their jaw, leading up to their ears. Not a lot; it is very thin and worn by all the professional athletes you see before playoffs in hockey and football games. And that is just the girls. Just kidding, of course; well maybe, actually not so much.

And of course they will be wearing someone else’s clothes. This is a rite of passage in college, not to know where your underwear is hanging out, or for that matter whose underwear you are wearing, at least for about a month. In fact, most students don’t realize that they basically are down to wearing molecules of cloth. You can see dust particles surrounding them like a halo.

You will always remember that student, your precious firstborn, wearing that coat and tie at baccalaureate. The school photos show him in a sweetheart innocent pose. Now it’s a Hawaiian shirt, unlaced sneakers and a bag of laundry the size of an aircraft carrier slung over his shoulder. It’s best not to bring up that the weather is in the sub-zero range. And for heaven’s sake, never, never, ever bring up anything about their appearance. It’s a lot easier just to cancel that family photograph you booked over the holiday.

Of course you will have to make room in the car for a new dog they will bring home. The dog is a campus classic, usually about the size of Ohio, never small or housebroken. This is another rite of passage, adopting a stray animal that has been roaming the campus for so long, he’s already outlived three deans and has earned an honorary degree in the humanities.

Appearances, tardiness and animals are a small thing to consider when you arrive home and get to enjoy all those wonderful dinners, conversation and companionship. And that’s just with the dog. Still, it fills up the time and makes the house rock with laughter and joy. It’s not that your son or daughter is antisocial; in fact, just the opposite. But they will be busy social networking with complete strangers. So it is a good thing to have an animal in the house. And nobody says you can’t redecorate.

Well, no matter how you find the new graduate when they arrive home for their break, the best thing to do is buckle up and enjoy the ride.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.