First Day of College. Eleven Years Old.

The name of this child has been changed for privacy reasons.  A family friend nicknamed him “Q” as a child because he always had a hundred questions.  Actually, he had more than 100 questions.  We stopped answering them once he reached 100 questions for the day.  

 

There he was.  He was barely over four feet tall, greasy unkempt hair and a childish smirk.  He was fidgeting, clumsily as if he still hadn’t grown into his own body.  He hadn’t.  Really, he’d just had a growth spurt(I think).  There was a kind of dark glimmer in his eyes.  He was filled to the brim with excitement, or perhaps some moderate anxiety.  I mean, who wouldn’t be a bit anxious?  It was his first day of college.  Eleven Years Old.  He didn’t want us to stay.  It was harder than putting your child on the bus for their first day of school.  We wanted to stay. We knew that we couldn’t.  So, instead, we peered in the small window in the door.  He looked back for a minute.  I think that he knew we were there.  We ducked.  Not fast enough, it seems because he gave us that angry death defying glare he mastered years ago.  Okay.  We’ll leave.  

 

So we sat on the steps.  We waited.  We counted floor tiles.  We counted ceiling tiles.  I rolled up and down the hallway on my Heelys until my ankles hurt.  Tick-Tock.  Tick-Tock.  We looked at the clock again and again.  Two hours to go. One hour to go.  It’s winter session, these classes are long.  Let’s count the tiles again.  Let’s count the sidewalk tiles too.  Let’s go get a soda.  Half an hour left.  We sit. We stand.  We peer in the window.  We sit.  Then, a swarm of college students start to rush out of the classroom.  Where is he?  They’re all gone.  Where is he? We wait some more.  Then, he walks out. We’re giddy with questions.  
How was class?

Did you learn anything?  Did you talk to the other students? Do you have homework?  Did you like it?  

I guess that these are pretty typical “just got out of class” questions.  He does his typical shrug, “I guess.”  Secretly, though, he seems happy.  I haven’t seen his eyes light up like that in ages.  His backpack is slung over one shoulder, very college-esque.  Plus, he actually wants to do his homework.  He wants to go back.  That’s huge.  

On the way out, we bump into another professor.  He says hi.  He wants to know what “Q” is doing here.  I mean, it’s kind of obvious.  He’s going to class.  He just happens to be eleven years old.  Very obviously, eleven years old.  Okay, so maybe it’s not that obvious.  “Q” talks to him for awhile.  The professor offers to let “Q” audit his class.  He turns to us for approval.  Of course.  How can you say no?  Three more hours of waiting and counting tiles.  That’s okay, he WANTS to go to a statistics class?? Of course!  

The statistics class won’t start for at least an hour.  So, we grab some Fat Sandwiches across the street.  It’s practically a rite of passage at Rutgers.  A giant sandwich packed with everything that might kill you — cheese, mozzarella sticks, Gyro meat, chicken fingers, bacon, cheese steak, burgers, french fries — anything and everything you want all stuffed into one massive sandwich.  He, of course, devours the entire thing.  He might not be as tall as these other kids.  He might only weigh about 80 lbs but he can probably out-eat most of them.  

We drop him off at class. We sit.  We stand. We count some tiles.  We sit.  We wait.  Really, we just wait.  So much waiting.  I think the excitement is starting to die down.  In less than a day, the idea of my younger brother attending college classes has become a fairly normal idea.  I don’t feel the need to bring him to class tomorrow.  My mom can do that all by herself.  I’d rather go to school. 

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