816 North

It’s not really about college orientation

My brother and I had reached the “What’s going on?” portion of a “I hust called to say hello” phone conversation. He was on a walk in his neighborhood, I was fixing supper at my house — we were 1,349 miles apart.

For most of the year we’re about 1,349 miles apart.

“I’m taking Luke to college orientation,” I told him. Luke is the first Vollen-kid to go away and live on campus. The orientation had to be different than the one for my community college commuting daughter, right?

I hadn’t asked my brother DJ for advice, but sibling law states that you don’t have to ask to get it.

“You’re not going to be the oldest person in the room,” he said. The red flag of doubt waved in my brain.

“Funny. Tease an orientation newbie,” I replied.

“Seriously! You’re going to be shocked at the amount of gray hair.”

“I’ll be one of the old ones for sure, but no gray hair. My stylist gives me the color that God intended but had to skip because he was too focused on your many issues.”

Have I mentioned that I’m a twin? We’re opposites. He’s introverted, tall, muscular, really logical and rides a Harley; I’m none of those things. But the biggest difference: There are two types of people in this world- Quality Speakers and Quantity Speakers. Quality speakers don’t say much but when they do, you had best be listening because it’s well thought out. Quantity Speakers throw out a lot of talk and hope something sticks. DJ is a Quality Speaker. I am not.

He’s also a more experienced parent, his second kid graduates college this year. Maybe he wasn’t joking.

“There are a lot of parents who had kids when they were older,” he told me. Pffft, I knew that.

“I had Luke in my mid-30s, Noah six years later, I’m usually the oldest parent in the room.”

“Well, don’t believe me but remember I said it,” he pre- I told you so’d. “Also, other parents are going to ask the most ridiculous questions. You have resist not shouting, ‘THAT’S the best you can come up with? You’ve had all this time picking the school and planning to come here today and now the only question you have is if the kids can have mini-fridges?!’ 

“That’s in the original tour, it’s tradition…” I started.

“Exactly! And, apparently, saying something about the quality of the questions out loud is poor social form. Just trust me.”

On orientation day Brian had to work, so I was parent-on-duty.

I hate to say it (I really hate to say this): DJ was right.

A good third of the parents were older than me. Deducting possible grandparents, I was still younger than at least a quarter of them and they didn’t take long to make DJ’s words true.

“How many quarters for laundry should I send?”


It’s in the housing brochure, it’s proudly told on campus tours, it’s under HOUSING on the school’s website…laundry is free for students, the cost is built into room and board.

When a parent later asked, “Can they bring mini-fridges?” I almost stood up and screamed in DJ’s honor, “That’s the best you can do!?”

But alas, on the ride there Luke had told me, “Don’t be weird.”

“I’m not weird,” I replied, “I’m kooky and creative and…”

“Pretty cocky,” Luke finished the sentence.

Even pointing out that the hootin’ and hollerin’ woman who sat behind us was setting the bar pretty high, he still insisted I not be “weird.”

I stayed quiet (ish) and smiled knowing that DJ and I weren’t separated by 1349 miles. He was next to me just a , “you were right” phone call away.

Susan Vollenweider lives in the Northland. To listen to the women’s history podcast that she co-hosts or to read more of her writing visit www.thehistorychicks.com or www.susanvollenweider.com.