My son and I stood on a hillside, taking in the scents and sights of a bright summer's day, looking out onto the Pacific Ocean. Behind us was the university that he had just fallen in love with: Pepperdine. Never mind that he hadn't even heard of the place two weeks ago. Or that he would be required to take religion courses. Or that until somewhat recently the idea of spending more than a night or two away from home was a test in which he was unwilling to take part. This was where he felt he belonged.
He had it all figured out: He would attend classes by day, discussing his Pastafarian beliefs with anyone who was foolish enough to doubt his convictions. By night he would roll down the hill on his bicycle/moped/scooter to his job at Duke's in Malibu where he would work as a valet, parking cars for the rich and famous. All those Lamborghinis, Maseratis, Ferraris, and maybe even a German car or two, all of which would only confirm his belief in a God with noodly appendages. He wants to study film and car design. He found courses in the catalog that would allow him to do just that.
And now we stand on a different perch: Our porch. This has been the launch pad for more first days of school than I care to count. My wife reminded me of the way our son spent a good portion of the walk to his first day of kindergarten trying to persuade her to tell his teacher that his stomach hurt, and he didn't really need to go to kindergarten anyway, since he already knew most of his alphabet. He toughed it out and made it through the day. Just like he has the past eleven years, but now we can see what all this primary and secondary education has been leading up to: That horizon, looking out on all that blue water, listening intently for the sound of an Italian racing engine in the distance.
It's not an easy dream to have. The folks at Pepperdine are just a little fussy about who they invite to come and study by the shore. Currently, my son's grades and my bank account are not the things that this particular dream are made of, but there is still time. There are scholarships and extra credit. There are still ways that this could be the future that we discover together.
He's on his way again. Another first day.