The Snapper has begun the college application process and it’s amazing how thoroughly I forgot what this was like with Wally. I said to George, “This is why people continue to procreate—they have short memories.”
He said, “I don’t think Wally’s senior year was that bad,” and I said, “That’s because you were in England for most of it.”
He’d forgotten that already. See?
I said, “There’s a college information session scheduled for Notre Dame for tomorrow night. Would you like to take him? Do some male bonding?” I’m nothing if not hopeful, but George said he had another flight to catch. Besides, he added, “I took him on a college visit this summer. Don’t you remember?” I didn’t, so he asked the Snapper, who said, “You mean that place with the great looking blondes?” and he and George high-fived each other.
I went to the event with the Snapper. There were also a lot of blondes there but they struck me as frostier and I don’t just mean their roots. Actually, the whole event struck me as frosty which surprised me, because when I think of Notre Dame, I think of football and beer and warm, golden autumn afternoons. I don’t think about uptight admissions counselors. But that’s what this one was. I learned that Notre Dame still has single sex dorms and that no persons of the opposite gender may spend the night in another person’s room who is of the opposite gender. I listened to this woman talk and I began to think her frosty attitude was the result of four years worth of not interacting with the opposite gender. That and the snow that falls on South Bend six months of the year.
But the Snapper heard none of that. All he heard was “Notre Dame”, “football” and “football”. After the stirring video (featuring football), the counselor spoke about academics and spirituality at Notre Dame. She asked if anyone had any questions and I raised my hand. The Snapper was embarrassed but I stood anyway and asked about the meal plan. This is a very critical topic in our house because of how much Wally and the Snapper eat. When Wally went to school I learned, too late, that the deluxe meal plan I had purchased for him was only garnering him fourteen or so meals a week. By Thanksgiving he was out of meals for the semester. I told him to make friends with some anorexics. But the ND counselor assured me that the college had received a high rating for their cafeterias. I thought to myself, well, if not sex then food I guess.
The Snapper was by now thoroughly stoked. Great football, great food, the promise of great beer. He got in line to speak with the frosty admissions counselor after the presentation. He eagerly handed her a copy of his grades (which gained him a promising nod of the head), his activities sheet (which has lots of football on it) and his test scores. She looked at them and her lip curled.
He was devastated. For the record, he finished in the 96th percentile, but apparently that is not enough to make the grade at ND. The frosty counselor encouraged him to re-take the test to improve his scores. He immediately asked me to sign him up for not one, but two more test dates.
This surprised me more than the no-sex-at-Notre-Dame policy. The Snapper is a kid who once famously said to me, “If a 92 is an A and a 100 is an A and I can get the 92 without studying, why bother working for the 100?” George always says about the Snapper, “He will never die of a heart attack.” But he has apparently changed—as has Wally, who after years of being a diligent student is now majoring in frat studies and creating wall art comprised of empty six pack boxes.
If there’s one thing that teenagers consistently teach you—even if you choose not to pay attention—it’s that you really don’t know who they are because they’re still in the process of becoming. You think you know your kids because you taught them to walk, read, write, tie their shoes, use the bathroom, say their name and even do laundry. You remember how they were when you taught them to do all of that and so you assume you still know who they are.
The reality is the adult you think you’re graduating from high school is really still a work in progress. It’s why we’re so shocked at how people have changed when we go back to our high school reunions. And sometimes even our college ones, too. Life takes the kids we’ve been molding and throws them onto a potters wheel, spinning them around and re-shaping them in ways we cannot begin to imagine when we teach them how to tie their shoes. The question is, when they’re older, will we remember the way the kid they were at six or sixteen or will the twenty-six year old adult eclipse all memories, including the drama of the college application process?
“Knowing and remembering,” I said to George. ”It’s all so confusing.” He said, “Now you’ve got me wondering why I didn’t go to Notre Dame when I was accepted—I can’t remember.” ”That’s easy,” I said, “You probably didn’t go because it would have cut off your access to girls.” He said, “You know this to be true?” I said “I know a lot of things, just not where the Snapper took the car last Friday night to celebrate his 18th birthday.” And George said some things were better left forgotten.