That time has come, as we all knew it would. But it seemed like only yesterday that we were still a family sitting around the dining table talking about things like “college” and “boys” as if they were mysterious visions of a future far far away. First our oldest went off to college. Two years ago. It was a change to be sure. But it didn’t have as big of an impact as we expected. As the oldest always does she simply carved the path ahead for the young, but the family unit still remained… Things still continued as they always had in the “home”. There are reasons for that. But now two years later we face our youngest leaving as well. Of course Princee Little Tree and I are still in the process of having more children… That’s an entirely other chapter of entries unto itsellf. But suffice it to say that though these are her children biologically and not mine, and I still long to have children as much as I’ve longed for anything, these girls feel as though they are mine. I love and care for them as though they are. And with our youngest leaving us now to venture off to college…. with us here alone in this giant house for the first time, it puts life in an entirely new perspective.
For one thing it amazes me how going through this process makes my going to college seem like just yesterday. All the actions and rituals are exactly the same. It prods into seeing once more that life is indeed short. (No matter my usual assertions that “life is LONG”…. It all depends on the circumstance…) Our family’s time together seemed both long and short. Though we may appreciate having more alone time now, or being able to sleep in, or even the peace and quiet afforded a home without the loquacious rambling of youth, words cannot describe how much we miss her presence; and she’s only been gone for a few days.
For the last 7 days our youngest has been going through something called “rush week” i.e. a detestable series of activities designed to carve out every last bit of individuality a person may have in order that they might try to get into a sorority. If not for the sheer unadulterated joy she is experiencing now that’s she’s gotten “in”, I would proclaim this tradition to be one of the most mentally & emotionally cruel & harmful things I’ve ever witnessed in human society. Number one because it is all so completely superfluous & unnecessary. Yet it deliberately and inherently breeds a blatant exclusivity and conformity; where all are encouraged and intimidated into acting dressing looking and talking the exact same way. It’s the ANTI-Ambassador program. Take the archetype of Ed Hale. Now create something exactly opposite of everything he appears to represent. And that’s this sorority system in a nutshell.
If you’re thinking “Well my kids will never do that”, THAT’S the thing: that’s exactly what WE thought! 3 months ago I would have sworn that we did NOT raise “sorority girls”. I could never see our eldest doing anything like thhis. She is far too unique, bull headed and creative to try so hard to fit into a preconceived box that a group of others have already carved out for her before her arrival. But you just never know… Our youngest for some reason just really wanted this. Why I still don’t know. And don’t get me wrong. I’m not against it. And obviously very happy for her. She seems super happy. I’m just more stupefied, shocked, stunned and a bit horrified by the whole process. She transformed right before our eyes — in one week! Her speech, her clothes, her mannerisms, the activities she now believes to be appropriate. She walks around acting like she’s in the Girl Scouts again. It’s more than odd. And what about the girls who DON’T get in? The ones who are just too different? Too unique? Too non-white/skinny/wealthy/Christian/normal/mainstream/etc? How do they feel? How do they fit in?
Sororities are a very exclusive little niche at otherwise very large universities one soon learns. They claim to pride themselves on “diversity” publicly; but in reality their goal is to breed a small army of exact replicas, little American dolls, each not too different than the one standing next to her. Their schedules are already created for them, from sun up to sun down. So too is their favorite flower, color, music, motto (who has a favorite motto for God’s sake?); their dress and attire is dictated by “what everyone does”. I cannot recall how many hundreds of times we have heard that phrase in the last two weeks. “that’s what everyone does”. And by “everyone” she means only the 80 or so girls who are in her sorority. These are not the innovators of the future. They are the hhousewivces, mothers and worker bees. And perhaps there is nothing wrong with that. I just didn’t think that we were raising one of them.
Lest we forget that all those years ago, for those who remember the Adventures of Fishy series…. Ducky and Madelyn O’Ryan were both part of the sorority system — AND “little sisters” of some dumbass frat –before I got a hold of them in the summer after our freshman year and showed them a new way of looking at life, introducing to them a different way of approaching our college years — a life filled with individuality, self expression, deep contemplation and intellectual yearning. Along with a fair share of hallucinagens, good books and great music. They never returned to the so called “Greek life” again; because instead as intellectuals we explored the actual Greeks and not some contrived fraternal system of autonamatons. So it’s not as if I am unfamiliar with the system. More just stupefied that our little one has decided to tread into these not so dangerous or challenging waters.
For the record I do not love her any less. I will just be happy when this phase has fully left her system.
Yes I must admit that I have been completely shocked and more than slightly disturbed and concerned that this girl, this young mind who I spent so much time with, helping to shape and form into an intelligent self reliant individual, so quickly and voluntarily transformed into the prototypical TV/movie type sorority girl. But then I saw her IN the sorority. At the sorority. With the rest of the girls. They are all SO young. So innocent. So lacking in life experience. She was so happy to be there. Felt so secure and protected. She won’t be all on her own in a big college town. Instead she will have a group of 80 or so other girls — who all call themselves “sisters” –with her along for the ride. And as childish and immature and conformed and group-think as it seemed, it also felt safe fun secure and joyful. As people who love and care for her more than anyone else on earth what more could we ask for her? She seemed truly ecstatic yesterday. She was so excited to show us her new “house” and introduce us to all her new “sisters”…. How could we feel anything BUT joy and appreciation?
It was an experience that yet again reminded me that NO belief, no matter how convicted we are of it, is 100% solid or permanent. Even if it belongs to “I”.
As we rolled up into the driveway this evening after a full day of moving our youngest into her new college home it really hit me how utterly different our lives will be now; both girls now gone for good. At least for the time being. It’s a surreal feeling that slowly creeps up on you. The reality of their permanent absence and all that is lacking in our home now because of it. There is so much you find yourself missing, the smallest and most mundane little things. It feels like a small piece of you has been cut out….even though of course that’s not the case. The Princess takes the occasional break between crying to eat a meal or speak on the phone, understanding full well that the integration of this major transition won’t resolve or go away overnight. She cries and she cries and she cries….
Besides our plans to have more children, in whatever form they manifest, we are both very happy that the girls are so content joyful studious and healthy; one couldn’t ask for more. And we are keenly aware of how blessed we are by their beauty, and their station in life. Their success reminds us that we made plenty of mistakes along the way but must have done a few things right too. Today more than ever we are happy that we’re already completely packed up here and ready to return to New York full-time as soon as the house sells. Today it really hit home. We did good. But our work is done here. It is time to move on to the next adventure. Love. Is an amazing thing. And by her not so subtle absence, we are made very aware of how much we love her.
Cigar of the Night: a Flor De Las Antillas, sun grown wrapper, robusto. Voted Cigar of the Year this year by Cigar Aficionado Magazine, a ridiculously competitive and prestigious honor. Frankly I have no idea how they are able to choose such a label for only ONE cigar now that the craze has come and gone and the field is so over-filled with such an overwhelming amount of better than great cigars. How do you choose? One assumes they just stick with the numbers, as in which cigar had the highest overall rating all year round in their various different tastings throughout the year and from there they aim for consistency. Which cigar continued to rate high at every single tasting regardless of size. Many so called aficionados don’t realize that all those different names just represent different sizes and nothing more. The cigars themselves are the same. Same wrapper, filler and binder and even label. Just a slightly different length and diameter. It always amazes me when you ask a guy what he’s smoking and he’ll say a Montecristo and then you’re like “which one?” and he’ll rattle off something like “it’s a robusto.” Well yeah buddy, I can see that from here. But WHICH Montecristo are you smoking? They make about five different cigar lines. At least. Robusto of course just refers to the size of the cigar. Which by the way nine times out of ten happens to be my favorite.
So what about this one? Cigar of the YEAR! A huge achievement. I’m not sure I’d go so far as calling it that quite yet. I can think of other cigars I’d rather be smoking right now. Davidoff Milleniums are always amazing. Diamond Crown. Opus X. A cuban Cohiba of course but that isn’t fair. And of course the Anniversario by … can’t remember at the moment…but you know the one. Those could be my absolute favorites if I had to choose.
Luckily we don’t though. Have to choose. So on occasion I like to try the new ones. This Flor de las Antillas is strong first off. Yes it’s a tasty sun grown, which has replaced maduro as my favorite wrapper. But this is no Chateau Fuente Sun Grown. It’s just way too strong for that. Too much bite. Definitely an “after a large meal at the end of the day” smoke. It’s smooth — don’t get me wrong — but it’s still pretty harsh compared to other more elegant sun growns out there. It did have a great start though. Very tasty. Raisin. Chocolate. Cocoa. But a harsh finish. All charcoal and tar. Definitely one you put out early rather than smoke till you burn your fingers. That’s something I dislike very much in a fine cigar. It should be as delicious on the final puff as it was on the first. A difficult achievement. And one that this Best Cigar of the Year did not pull off for me this evening. But there is always tomorrow. They rated it a whopping 96! I’d give it a 92. Still damn good. Just not incredible. And that’s “taste and opinion” in a nutshell. No accounting for it. It just is. Up to each individual.