You know those cliché, B-rate movies about the shenanigans that ensue when out-of-touch adults go back to school? Yeah, it’s not like that.
By August Wright, College of Charleston
My sister and I are only a year-and-a-half apart.
When she went to college, I went right after her and we ended up at the same school, which happened to be about a half hour away from where our parents lived. Our mother, who had taken college courses before but never finished a degree, decided to take the opportunity to enroll at our university. Now, I know what you might be thinking—this story sounds like some sort of tired, clichéd, B-rated movie where an older person enrolls at a college or high school, and a bunch of silly little shenanigans ensue, all of which are made even “funnier” by the fact that the older person has kids who go to the same school, right?
Well, maybe a little.
There were shenanigans, but they weren’t the “my mom is cooler than me” or “I hope no one finds out I’m her kid” type of thing. They were more like “my mom driving through campus and stomping the gas to run over a girl who was mean to me,” and “my mom making a b-line for a teacher that had threatened my sister,” and even “my male history professor introducing my mom as Jenna Jameson when her name is actually Jenna Johnson.” I don’t think our history professor ever recovered from introducing her as a famous porn star. And if you’re thinking, “Well, the names are similar,” I’ll agree—but my mom and Jameson share more than just a first name. They also both have huge breasts.
So, yeah, we all spent an entire semester staring at someone that we knew had checked out our mom. I don’t know if I’ll ever experience a more uncomfortable situation—not counting all those times my mom would meet my male friends and they, at some point, would turn to me and say, “Her boobs are huge! What happened to you?”
When my mom wanted to come to school, my sister and I didn’t resist. We didn’t really care. My sister lived at home anyway, and it wasn’t like my mom was trying to move into the dorms and be my roommate. It was everything those crappy, B-rated movies aren’t. Except for, you know, the breasts and the few times my mom tried to run someone over.
We all ate lunch together. We walked places together. Sometimes we sat at the same table in the library and “studied” together, or we blew off class and did something way more fun. I was young and didn’t really want my mom on me like a shadow, but my friends liked hanging out with her.
Sometimes I thought they liked her just to bug the crap out of me, but now I think she was filling some sort of void for them. A lot of my friends were eighteen or nineteen, far away from home and on their own for the first time. They missed their parents or just didn’t have a good relationship with them, and I think a lot of them liked having that older, motherly figure in their circle. You know how there’s always that one friend who’s the “mom” of the group?
My mom was that “mom” because she was actually a mom.
I know that some kids—more my sister’s friends—went to her to ask for advice about school-related problems or to tell her about their negative experiences with professors. Professors who bully students exist more than you think, and these professors tend to work only with freshmen or sophomores, who usually feel like the only solution is to drop the class or fail it. Remember when I mentioned my mom making a b-line for that teacher? Well, one way to get a nasty teacher off your back is to sic your mother on them—a million times more entertaining when that teacher has no clue that your mom goes to the same school.
If you’re wondering, yes, I did have a class with my mom. We took a classics course about Ancient Greek Medicine. It was required for my major, and my mom was taking it because she was, and still is, interested in medicine (she later went to medical school and is now a resident at a hospital in Virginia, proving that idiot kids only delay your dreams—not keep you from them).
Aside from her consistently making better grades than me—and her and the professor meeting with each other to discuss my bad grades—taking the course together wasn’t as exciting as it probably sounds. If I missed class, my mom would be annoyed and ask why I wasn’t there. If I was late to class, the professor wouldn’t have to do anything other than look at my mother. I’m pretty sure they had learned Morse Code and would blink to talk to each other.
I walk in late, the professor blinks at her, “Yell at her later, please?” and my mom blinks back, “Oh, I was going to savagely beat her with our textbook, but sure, yeah, I can yell at her instead.” And then I imagine the professor, by the end of the semester, would be wishing that she had taken my mother up on that savage beating. Who knows?
I remember that I had brought a cupcake to class once. It was one of those ridiculously huge cupcakes that’s for “one person” and a “snack,” but could actually feed an entire birthday party. I was eating it and making a mess because the frosting was more like a mountain. It was all over my hands, and I also may have gotten it on the desk and possibly on the floor, and also maybe on my notes. Midway through the professor’s lecture, my mom had pulled out a handkerchief from her bag and was trying to surreptitiously wipe my hands off.
But it didn’t matter how sly she was trying to be. When you and your mother are in the same class, you draw a lot of attention—especially when you have the same face and the same voice, and sometimes you even accidentally dress in the same clothes. So of course the professor was staring and then the rest of the class was, too. A huge mess between us, her violently trying to clean my hands off, me resisting and thinking how embarrassing it was…
When I look back on it, though, I don’t think anyone was looking because it was odd (okay, maybe a little), but perhaps these kids were looking because they missed what they had left behind at home. Everyone leaves that piece of themselves back at home, that piece that they’re dying to get away from, only to realize later that not having it around isn’t as freeing or as wonderful as they had once anticipated.
Maybe we weren’t so much this hilarious, ridiculous spectacle, but more of a reminder that no matter how old you get or how far away you are, there’s still someone waiting for you, some wonderful person who will always be present to kiss you goodnight, to love you unconditionally, and to stealthily wipe frosting off your small hands.