Let's see, when we last met our intrepid heroine, (am I a heroine?) she was sitting in an empty apartment, movers poised to scoop up her stuff and send her off to points west. (Go west young woman!) After a very long several days of driving, she arrived at her destination in the land of tumbleweeds, cowboy boots and armadillos, as did her household goods (after a few hiccups). Presently she headed even further west for her pre-honeymoon in Hawaii, after which she and her beloved headed to Wyoming where they tied the ceremonial knot and are now betrothed for all time. And here she sits.
I am a frequent reader of several message boards for Third Culture Kids, and I'm always on the lookout for a blog topic. A few days ago was the move-in date for freshman at Trinity University, San Antonio, where I matriculated all those years ago. It made me think about my feelings on that day in 1978, when my parents loaded up my two suitcases and the thousand pounds of Sears Roebuck purchases (bed sheets, clip-on reading lamp, etc.) into a borrowed Suburban and dropped me off. I tried not to think about mom and dad returning very soon to Singapore, which may as well have been on another planet. In one way I was excited about shedding the parental rules and regulations that had been such a big part of my life up until then, but on the other hand I was still a little girl inside, needing my parents to just "be there" for me, even though I didn't want them to "be there" too much. One day after cavorting all over campus attending one orientation function or another, I returned to my dorm room to find that mom and dad had been by to see me, and had left a note. I knelt down on the floor next to my bed and sobbed my heart out that I had missed them. I knew the days were short that they would be in my immediate vicinity and I was bereft. It was a one time thing, though ... soon enough I was immersed in classes and social activities. My suitemate, Sarah, and I went walking around one evening, looking for a card game. We met a couple of guys from the dorm across the way, and ended up playing blackjack in their room. They had all the latest music playing, Foreigner, Boston, Aerosmith. They laughed at me when I said I had never heard of these groups. And laughed again when I told them I had no drivers' license. "What kind of rube are you?" they were thinking, I'm sure!
One of the guys was from Staten Island. He was as much a fish out of water in Texas as I was. He was a nice Jewish boy, going to a Presbyterian college far away from home. For some reason, we both felt (I found out later) that we had met before. It was an instant friendship, and quickly became an instant romance. We were joined at the hip, going tubing down the Comal River, and eating lunch and dinner in the refectory. When he feigned ignorance about doing laundry ("how much water do you put in the machine?") I offered to help, but I was just as helpless as he was. I managed to turn all his underwear pink. (Well jeez, I always had a "lavanderia" do all my laundry!)
We went to a football game one night, where we sat and discussed our future plans. He told me he was pre-med, and I took his hands and told him they were surgeon's hands. (Cheesy much?) He tried to teach me how to drive in his enormous green Cadillac, but gave up pretty quickly after I nearly took out a fire hydrant. He took me to concerts (Boston and Aerosmith) and tried to educate me on all that I had missed living overseas. He laughed at me when I got carded for the first time (no drinking age overseas). He made me play "Double Vision" over and over and taught me to love Foreigner and Joe Jackson. ("He's so ugly!") We ate at McDonald's and Wendy's and my indoctrination into the life of an American teenager was complete.
Every Sunday my roommate got a call from her parents in Illinois. My phone calls were once a month, if that. I had to learn to do things on my own, like make a doctor's appointment, make plane reservations to go home at Christmas, shop for groceries. I had to budget the $50.00 per month that was my allowance. It was complete immersion, and boy did I learn a lot.
I will tell you the end of the story: that boy from Staten Island, who held my hand as I swam through the early months of "re-entry" to the states, and held me when I cried with homesickness (where was home really?) is now my husband ... a small miracle for this Third Culture Kid. How did we get here? How did this happen? You can't make up this stuff! Stay tuned for the rest of the story.
So to all you new freshmen, TCK or not, good luck on your new journey. College is an easing-in stage of life. You will learn not only academics, but the ways of the world. Sometimes the world hurts you, a lot, but sometimes you will want to embrace it and jump for joy! You are so lucky that you can now Skype with mom or dad or whomever, even if they are on the other side of the world. At any rate, enjoy! and take life by the tail!