What kept going through my mind was this: It hasn't been that long since I was eating dinner in a freshman dorm. As a freshman. That was me, not my son that was pushing a tray along the rail, looking for something other than blue jello to fill the empty spaces in my gut that remained after a similar experience long about lunch time. This wasn't my freshman cafeteria. This was a place that would make burritos on demand. They offered pasta ala carte and nicely bundled dinners. They had cookies that had somewhat recently seen the inside of an actual oven. This was my son's freshman cafeteria. Ii is where we got together to have our last supper together. For a while.
We had been sharing meals for a little over a week. It was spring break, and rather than heading down to Cabo like so many of his contemporaries, our son had chosen to come along with the family on a road trip. We drove down to the bottom of the state. More to the point, he drove. His mother and father rode along. It was payback, of sorts. He loves to drive, probably because of all the time he spent in the back seat, watching the places we took him go by. Now he was behind he wheel, and even though he was following the directions his parents and the GPS gave him, he was behind the wheel. It was our trip. Together. When we had finished our business on the southern end of the state, the fun part, it was time to take him back to school. By a sad quirk of scheduling, my son's spring break and my own overlapped by about seventy-two hours. The day after Easter, he had to return to classes. His mother and I drove him back to school so he wouldn't miss a day. We hung around as he got back into his routine. We took him to lunch. We bought him a binder. We drove him back to his dorm.
Later that evening, we met up again. This time we had dinner on campus. It was familiar and it was unique. The food was like nothing I would have found in my freshman year. When we sat down and ate that slightly elevated cafeteria fare, I looked around at the undergrads surrounding us. That was the part that I remembered clearly. The groups of two to ten, chatting noisily about what they had just done and what they hoped to do. I heard conversations about GPAs. Spring break had just ended, but there were still more adventures waiting to happen. The weekend was just a few days away. Then there would be more time to go and see and do. Some of them would be back in that cafeteria the next morning, having breakfast and looking forward to the next day's adventure. Whatever it turned out to be.
My wife and I were on the road again. We were returning to our home, the one that had only recently been full of three of us. We weren't in a rush. This was our spring break. We wouldn't be going to Cabo, either.