My daughter needed to be at college for team tryouts on a summer Tuesday from 5-9. Her college is not that far away in terms of distance, but is light years away in terms of traffic. I hate to drive. So I looked up the train schedule, the metro schedule, and installed Uber on my phone just in case. I figured out that we could make the tryouts easily without leaving too early in the day, and be home around 1 am.
So we’re good to go. Except that 10 minutes before we need to be on our way to the train station, I double check the metro and in so doing, realize I’ve completely misread the Amtrak schedule, and there is no way home that night. I lose my temper for about 57 seconds. I call my husband, who says to just drive there already, so I hang up on him. I tell my daughter we can drive each way or take the train and spend the night. She votes for the train and spending the night. We throw some extra stuff in our backpacks and we leave.
The ride down is lovely, we get to the city, use our metro passes, stop for lunch, then metro again to the campus. We realize that in our rush, she hasn’t brought a jacket or anything but tank tops. I give her some grief about this being a ploy to get a school sweatshirt, but we head to the student store to buy a hoodie, and a toothbrush. We get there at 4:01. They closed at 4:00. Apparently, summer hours are quite short.
No matter, I can deal with that later. While I also find us a hotel and get tickets home for the next day; we’ll need an early train since I have to babysit my granddaughter at noon.
I put that out of my head as we wait for the tryouts to start. I try to calm her down and build her up as her nerves kick in. I picture myself sending out waves of love and confidence for her all through the tryouts. She tells me she doesn’t want me to stay and watch, though, so I’ll have to do it long distance. No matter, I have a lot to take care of. I head to the campus Starbucks to use the restroom, get some food, and make my plans. I get there at 5:01. Guess what time they closed? Yep. 5:00.
I find an open hamburger place and start calling hotels. I don’t know what is going on in this city, but it’s a Tuesday night and there is no room at the inn. Not at any inn. My husband gets in on this action long distance and finally finds one place that might have a room if I’m fast, so I call immediately and yay! We have a room. I thank him for his help without saying that if he had just come with us to drive, none of this would be happening.
I set out to find a sweatshirt. It’s going to be cold tonight, not just in terms of weather, but possibly in spirit if these tryouts don’t go well for her. I need to get her something soft and warm. I walk a pretty hefty perimeter around the main campus area and realize two things: that my backpack is darned heavy, and that while there are about 38 places to eat and 14 bars near this part of campus, there are no places to buy clothes. I’m embarrassed to say I even checked at the 7-11.
But hey, I have a metro pass. I decide to head to the mall. I check the schedule and decide that, like Mr. Incredible, yo tengo tiempo, even though the mall is 33 minutes away by metro.
I figure my luck is changing when about halfway there, the metro stops at a large strip mall area and I see a sign for Target and Macy’s. Bingo! I jump off and hike over to Target, which is not actually in the strip mall, but across a major street and a huge parking lot. I pass by the Macy’s because I figure I can get everything in one place at Target.
But no. There is not one sweatshirt or hoodie in the store. Not for women. Not for men. Not for large children. I breathe. I find a restroom. No problem. I buy a toothbrush and some socks and head to Macy’s. I learn that this particular Macy’s is a home furnishings store. Not just no sweatshirt, no clothes at all.
Well, there must be something back in the strip mall by the metro stop. I hike back there. I can get five different ethnicities of food, three brands of expensive coffee, art supplies, linens, and discount pet food. But the only clothing is at Men’s Wearhouse.
At Men’s Wearhouse, where they apparently don’t sell sweatshirts. I don’t have time to go to the mall anymore. I barely have a roof over our heads for the night. We still have no way home tomorrow. And I will not be able to provide anything better for my possibly traumatized child than a rather ugly, mustard-colored, still-expensive, clearance-rack men’s dress sweater. I start to cry a little in the Men’s Wearhouse, and I don’t think that’s allowed.
A lovely salesperson rescues me by finding a blue sort-of-dressy hoodie-type thing on the clearance rack.
A great burden lifted, I head back to campus on the metro, and wait for practice to end. When the coach, team, and hopeful candidates file out, I look at my daughter, who shrugs to tell me she doesn’t know. But then the coach calls her over to get her team equipment, and I see the big grin. With an effort, I contain myself, knowing that I am not to hug, kiss, or high-five my daughter until absolutely no one can observe such an untoward exchange.
As we walk toward the metro stop to go to the hotel, I say “Congratulations!” I give her a hug and I formally hand to her the meaning-laden hoodie as if it were Jason’s legendary Golden Fleece. She says “Thanks,” which has to be one of the most anti-climactic moments in my parenting history. But I realize there’s no way to explain to her the significance I attach to that hoodie.
Just like there is no way to explain to her what it means for me that she’s headed off to college in the fall. So I just smile, and we head for the metro.
Reader’s Note: If you were interested in the Magic Sweatshirt part of the story, that pretty much ends here, when I tell you that she still wears it, and I still feel warm and fuzzy about it; it’s the Golden Fleece of all the clothing I’ve purchased for her in her seventeen-and-a-half years of life.
If you’re interested in the Ill-fated Travel part of the story, you can find Part 2 on the blog page….