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Day 28 in a month of writing: Little Moments With The Kids

HomeSure she is feeling twenty-two and she is not Taylor Swift. He is about eight inches taller than me and has less than six months to be a teenager, something he was eagerly anticipating when we moved to this house and as a first grader he said he wanted to decorate his new room “teenagerish”. They are grownups but to me they are “my kids”.

Today Jeff and I got on the road hours before the sun came up and drove to Bemidji Minnesota to attend a scholarship breakfast for our daughter who is a senior at Bemidji State University. The weather was ideal, the breakfast food was what one would expect for a food service buffet with plastic plates and cutlery. There was recognition of the scholarship recipients, appreciation expressed toward committed donors and speeches given by donors, recipients and university staff. Just when you thought you might nod off a student who spent his senior year of high school living in a friend’s basement while attending school and working full-time shared how his school counselor encouraged him to apply for scholarships when the idea of college seemed so out of reach. He shared how he had been called to the principals office one day and his principal and counselor explained that he had received a very special scholarship, one that permitted him to go to college and he chose BSU. A faculty member shared how as a nontraditional student (with three children and only his wife working) supplemented the family food plan with discarded produce from a grocery store dumpster and even admitted he had stolen a roll of toilet paper from his student union because he could not afford to buy any and the family was out. He gave up on his dream of being a teacher with just three-quarters needed to complete his degree. He took a job with UPS and decided that would be his career and then a packet arrived during the summer, it was for a scholarship which he had applied for that spring. It was specifically for non-traditional students, with funds contributed from former non-traditional students who understood the unique challenges of balancing school and family. It had been over thirty years since he had received that envelope, he had to stop twice to regain his composure while sharing his story. He said that he had cried harder on that day thirty years ago but that being the recipient of that generosity has shaped his life, allowed him to provide more for his family, permitted him to achieve a dream.

It was nice seeing her name in the program and being able to watch Betsy as she crossed the stage in the midst of a long line of students who had received a BSU scholarship for the 2014-2015 academic year. After the ceremony we returned to her room and gave her birthday gifts and treats from home. Then we ran errands and took her and her roommate to lunch. We headed for home early afternoon, knowing that she will be home in a few weeks for a concert with friends, back a month later for Thanksgiving and then finals and nearly a month off at home for Christmas and New Year’s prior to returning for what will be her final quarter of undergraduate classes. I enjoyed it all but in reflecting on the day, as nice as the purpose of the trip was, a favorite moment was when Betsy said that she had been doing some “doodles” and gave me a picture of our house. I loved it because I enjoy her artwork and attention to detail but also because to have drawn it meant that she had been thinking of home.

So it felt like a “win” as a parent day! A few hours after arriving back home I heard my phone and went to retrieve the message. It was from my son Eddie, away at college on the other side of Wisconsin. There was media content, so I opened what I anticipated would be a photograph. Instead I got a brief video with audio. Taken from the stands it was the schools dance-line performing to Amii Stewart’s disco era song Knock on Wood. It was brief and the details of the performance were not clear from the video. You might wonder why a college sophomore would send such a thing to his mother. It was because he remembered. When I was the captain of the “B-Squad Indianettes” during my sophomore year in high school my final performance was a dance I choreographed with my friend Kim Tillman (who later became a costume designer in Hollywood) to a song so new that we tape recorded it off of the radio, Knock on Wood. It was the spring of 1979, my son would not be born for another sixteen years.

Two kids, two very different interactions but the same impact. Amii Stewart may have said it best “It’s like thunder, lightening, the way you love me is frightening!”. I’m gonna knock knock knock on wood.

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