I did not want Josh to go to the University of Chicago.
I wanted him to go to Carleton, Grinnell, or Davidson. A small liberal arts college in a bucolic setting, not a huge university in a city. And he was admitted to all three ~ outstanding schools, every one of them. I was beside myself with delight as I anticipated his future.
But Chicago drew him like a magnet.
We went up there for the Admitted Students' Week-end in April, which did not help my cause. I went to presentations for parents; he stayed in a dorm and hung around campus and went downtown with his hosts. My hopes crumbled further with each hour of his indoctrination into the culture of the College.
The Gothic architecture hung heavy and loomed oppressively over the sunny spring days. He was enthralled. I noted that there is an island in a little lake at Carleton. "How could you not go to a college where there's an island?" He pointed out a pathetic little mess of grass in the middle of a small fountain in one of the quads and said, "Chicago has an island!" As we wandered the campus on Sunday afternoon, I mentioned that it was empty of students. "A beautiful day, and no one is outside." When I met with one of the financial aid officers, she told me that no doubt they were in the libraries. "I've worked at several schools, and I've never seen anything like the way the students here study."
I came to love it, too, of course. We all did. Sometimes we visited as a family; sometimes I went alone. Together Josh and I enjoyed the architecture of Hyde Park, the Indiana Dunes, the city at Thanksgiving, Grant Park in the summer. One year he and I walked the seven miles along the lakefront from Hyde Park to downtown on the day after Thanksgiving.
And I'm happy to report that it wasn't all about studying. Last night as I tried to make arrangements to get together with any of his friends who might still be there, one of them related these episodes from the summer of 2006:
"During the summer when we lived together, Josh, his girlfriend, and I would regularly grab lunch on the Midway right next to the Masaryk Statue. It was conveniently between my job, the museum, and the Press [where Josh worked] . I remember us all just lying out there in the sun.
Earlier this year my mom asked me whatever happened to this split bunk bed I'd brought from our cabin in MN down to Hyde Park - its story always makes me laugh and think of Josh. You see, this bed was peculiar in that aside from being half of a bunk bed it was designed with this enormous and heavy wood-composite slab to support the mattress with no box spring or wooden slats. The rest of it was some kind of heavy walnut. It was sturdy.
Well, it went from me to V, but after he moved out and Josh moved into Madison Park, Josh inherited it. That was rather a quiet neighborhood and toward the end of the summer it almost seemed a challenge. I don't recall how we convinced each other, but we decided it'd be a good idea to throw a dance party at 2 AM blasting The Strokes and Regina Spektor. And by dance party, I mean just the two of us singing at the top of our lungs and jumping around. Anyway, at one point Josh was jumping up and down on this beast of a bed when the whole thing split apart. Of course no one was hurt, but the whole thing makes me laugh thinking of it. The rest of the time we lived there, Josh would sleep inside the bed frame on the floor. Whenever I'd wake him up, I remember he'd pop up from his nest between the frame."
I have not been back for five years, almost to the day. But my daughter and I are headed there this afternoon.