Weed and more weed. My daughter Lili has visited two colleges where she’s been accepted early, and it seems as though all she notices is the smell of weed.
“Marijuana?” I ask. “Yes, mother. Duh.”
What do I say to her? That this is reality, get used to it? Don’t be so picky? Or do I tell her how upon my arrival at Skidmore College in 1969, my roommate’s boyfriend Howie arrived from New York City with a trunk load of brick?
At her first overnight stay at a small liberal arts college in Massachusetts, she was greeted by Mel from East Bay, a member of the volleyball team my daughter hopes to play on. Mel did not appear athletic, but what do I know? She was overweight, clad in black, with scary make-up and tattoos. When I drove away, Lili walked off with Mel, an odd couple, with Lili in her uniform of leggings, worn boots, and a hooded sweatshirt with her high school volleyball team’s logo.
The next morning, Lili texted me at the hotel where I was staying to come and get her as soon as possible.
“How was it?” I asked. “I will tell you later, mother,” was her response.
I got the full details on the long drive back to Connecticut, where we live.
Mel told Lili the moment they arrived at her dorm, “We smoke a lot of weed around here. We’re chill.” That did it. Lili decided then and there that this college was not for her. Worse, Mel left Lili alone in her dorm room and went to stay with her boyfriend in another dorm.
Lili is not exactly a goody-two shoes. It’s just that she doesn’t like the taste of beer or wine, and pot gives her a headache. Plus, she sees herself as an athlete, and athletes are not supposed to get high. In fact, at Lili’s high school, varsity athletes must take an oath of sobriety during season. Lili was co-captain of her volleyball team during senior year, and she took her role seriously. She was furious when her co-captain showed up at a Sunday morning practice too hung over to play.
“What about the oath?” I asked. People ignore the oath, it seems. It’s a kind of "don’t ask, don’t tell" deal. Everyone knows who’s been doing weed or Jello shots, but they keep quiet.
Her second overnight stay was no better. Weed everywhere. She liked this small college in Maryland better than the one in Massachusetts, though.
“Would you consider this one?” I asked as we drove from La Guardia back to Connecticut.
“I don’t know, mother.”
She was tired so I kept quiet for the remainder of the drive, which always gets her talking.
“I like the fact that freshman can have cars,” she said. “And I like the horse stables.”
“Horses? You tried horseback riding, remember? We got all that expensive gear at that horse store in New Canaan, and then you went to riding camp in Vermont, is this not so? And then you gave up riding. So what is going on here?”
“I like to clean the stalls,” she said. “And brush the horses.”
During the ride, she was busy on her computer.
“What are you doing?” I asked. “Reading about the college?”
“No, mother. I am looking at cars," she said. "I’d like to have a car freshman year.”
This was going nowhere. The next morning, though, she appeared in a bright yellow sweatshirt with the name of the just visited college in bright blue. There was some kind of an animal on the back. A gopher? Go Gophers?
That night we talked more about weed.
“I agree with you,” I said. “It’s not pleasant to be around it if you don’t like it.”
“Well,” she admitted, "they do have a substance-free dorm at the college.”
“A substance-free dorm? Does that mean that all the other dorms are not free of substances?” I was shocked.
When I asked my friends Tina and Nathan, parents of two college graduates, about it, they said, “Oh, this is normal.” “But,” said Nathan, “who would want to live in a substance-free dorm with all the boring people?”
Is my daughter holier than thou? Does she hate weed and wine because she sees her mother swilling wine? “Come on, give me a break, I have had a really terrible few years, you know that,” I will say. “We lost your dad, my husband of thirty years, to melanoma in 2007. I look forward to a glass or two of wine at the end of the day. I’m lonely, depressed. Wine helps.”
“Mother, I do drink. I sometimes have vodka with cranberry juice at parties, but just one. I am driving, you know. And yes, there is weed at the parties. And at school, you can buy any drug you want, from pills to weed to cocaine.”
“Heroin,” I ask?
“Yes, mother,” she said.
This is reality. It was reality in my time, and it is reality in my daughter’s time. I remain in awe of my child, my only child, my Lili. Her father and I traveled to China to adopt her in 1994, the best thing either of us ever did in life. She is inscrutable in many ways, adult beyond her years, with the wisdom of the ages deep inside her. She knows who she is, what she stands for, what she will and will not do. She’s way ahead of her mother.