I took my mom on a college visit in 2016 because I blame her for my desire to get a doctorate in the first place. If you want to do the crime, you gotta pay the time, y’know?
Well, first I asked my brother (also a glutton for educational punishment) because I was visiting the University of Iowa and I assumed he could stand vigil outside of Kinnick Stadium for the duration of my visit. However, it worked better for Mom to come so we prepared for the visit in the most auspicious fashion.
First Things First: Color Coordination
First we had to change the color of my resume even though I would not be giving anyone a copy of my resume because this was not a job interview. I just wanted to bring it along so I could remind myself of things I’ve done in the 18 years since I graduated from high school. But Mom wanted a more attractive resume so we really explored the color palette available to us on Microsoft Word.
Then Mom did that excited clapping thing she does when she said, “We need a folder to put everything in!”
She went to the basement to retrieve a folder. Please note: She went to the BASEMENT. Our basement was not by way of a Staples or an Office Max to find a selection of folders for me to choose from. She trotted downstairs to the “education room” which she had recently cleaned so she knew exactly where THREE different colors of green that might coordinate with my notebook would be. She brought up the options enthusiastically and had one that matched my bright green notebook perfectly.
“Oh this is so fun!” she said.
“I’ll drive tomorrow so you can write down the questions we come up with,” she told me before bed. “What time do you want up in the morning? You’ll need a good breakfast.”
I disagreed. It was a college visit at age 36. I needed a brain transplant.
Getting to the College Visit is 90% of the Battle
The next day, after breakfast, we loaded ourselves into my vehicle and, after raising the driver’s seat as far as it would go, she took off toward Iowa City.
Now, it has been 18 years since I lived in Iowa and we didn’t go to Iowa City that often growing up so I didn’t know the way.
“Oh, I know the way,” Mom said. “We’ll go through Quasqueton.” She said Quasqueton like I was supposed to know where this was… or how to spell it. “Just put Quasqueton in your phone. Quasqueton.”
“Please stop saying Quasqueton,” I said to her as I frantically tried to encourage my phone to find this town that I was 65% sure didn’t exist. I was fully convinced Mom just kept saying it because she liked how it sounded.
Lo and behold, it was a real place and, even though Mom acted like she knew where it was, we had Google Maps on the job. Next we began formulating what questions I would ask the faculty member I’d be meeting with.
About 20 miles later, my phone told us to turn left and Mom questioned this emphatically. I squinted in my confused way and said she should take the route she knows. “No no,” she said, “we’ll follow the phone.”
Little did she know, the phone in rural Iowa does not hold up well. Little icons appeared on the top bar of the phone warning me that it was overheating and going to conserve energy to cool off; this meant that we might not have any maps available to us for awhile.
At this moment, I am not kidding, we were on Alice’s Road.
“I’ve never been here before,” Mom said. “Do you suppose the road is named after the woman who used to live in that house?”
She nodded toward the small white house, which doubled as the ONLY house, on Alice’s Road. We drove through other small towns she’d never heard of and my phone continued to blink the little thermometer. “We’ll just keep heading southeast. I’m sure we’ll run into I-380 eventually.”
“Is there an easier route?” I asked, imagining trying to sell Carrie on the idea that I’m going to move four hours away and to get there, she was going to have to find Troy Mills, Iowa.
“Well sure,” Mom said. “Highway 150 runs into I-380.” Then she stopped talking.
“Highway 150? The one that comes out of the town we woke up in? We could technically have taken two roads?” I asked incredulously.
“But then we wouldn’t be having an adventure!” she exclaimed as we drove past a cemetery adjacent to a CHAINSAW STORE in a town no bigger than a Catholic family reunion. “I guess that’s where they put their mistakes,” Mom laughed, smiling at the juxtaposition of the two locations.
She may hate bathroom humor, but death and amputation humor is right up her alley.
Then I Told Mom to Stay Inconspicuous
We did eventually find Iowa City and the parking ramp to which I had been directed for my college visit. It was then I thought maybe we should lay out some ground rules.
“Now, I’m 36 years old, Mom,” I began explaining, “so I’m going to try to act as though I didn’t bring my mom along. So try to stay inconspicuous.”
She nodded. “I would never embarrass you,” she promised, practically raising her right hand. “I am perfectly fine reading a book somewhere while you meet with who you need to meet with.”
“Yes, well, we’ll find a place for you to sit while I do this and then we’ll wander around afterward, okay?”
“Absolutely,” she agreed. Next we headed to the Lindquist Center and attempted to find the room we were supposed to be in. It’s a somewhat confusing building but eventually, we found it and we found a nice little sitting area that Mom could wait in.
Narrator: She Did Not Stay Inconspicuous
Liz, the woman I had been communicating with, arrived. I introduced myself and Mom and then attempted to guide us away from one another.
“Oh your mom can come on the tour, too!” Liz exclaimed.
“No no,” Mom said. “This is her visit.” Then she smiled approvingly at me, practically yelling with her eyes, “DO YOU SEE HOW INCONSPICUOUS I AM BEING!!???!”
“Are you sure?” Liz asked.
“Oh okay,” Ms. Inconspicuous said standing up.
I really didn’t mind, but I did chuckle at how long her dedication to the cause lasted. Liz took us on a tour and I got to introduce my mother to everyone we met along the way. I am sure this further reinforced the impression that everyone at every age takes their mother on college visits. As a result, they probably wondered if I still lived at home.
College Visit: Mom Unsupervised
Soon it was time for me to meet with the faculty member. I told Mom now she needed to sit quietly and she settled back in and I went to my meeting.
When I came out, Liz and Mom were animatedly talking to one another in this area. “I didn’t think your mom just needed to sit here alone,” Liz informed me.
I looked at mom and she sheepishly looked at me. “We had a very nice conversation,” Mom added.
After a tour of the remainder of the building, we said our goodbyes and headed back to the car. “So tell me all about Liz,” I inquired and my mother rattled off a complete life history: of Liz, Liz’s husband, their children, their previous education, future plans, and every piece of financial information about the program she could glean from their conversation.
I had previously informed Mom she could not deter me from the program due to finances and she spent approximately 90% of her energy in the car with me avoiding this topic. I realized then that Mom could have been a therapist and probably would have been very good at it if she could have ever moved past advice giving.
On the way home, we chatted about the interview and my impressions of the program. And finally, she told me she could see me there and seemed to relax a bit.
“We’re also going to take the more direct route home,” she told me. “With a couple of shortcuts anyway.”
In any case, if anyone needs a surrogate to attend a college visit, Mom is well-versed in these and makes quite a good impression on everyone around her. And if I get in to this program and end up going, I look forward to the “Mama’s girl” moniker that will precede me.
After all, it’s pretty damn accurate.
Also: We never found Quasqueton.