Prompt 12: Dark Clouds on the (Virtual) Horizon : The Interview

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When I graduated from high school, I decided I would save my parents some of the cost of a University education by completing my freshman year at a local Community College, then I would transfer to the University of my choice. I was a very good student with an excellent record and this was a pattern than many students followed at the time.

Halfway through my freshman year at the Community College, I arranged an interview with my Counselor to discuss my plans and make sure the courses I had taken and planned to take the second semester were fully transferable. I had already filled out my University application for the following fall, and my parents were supportive.

I walked down the dingy corridor lined with glass-windowed office doors. I found number 325, Mr. Peterson’s office, and knocked on the door.

“Yeah. Come in,” a voice called. As I opened the door, the man behind the desk, old-fashioned phone receiver pressed to his ear, glanced up at me, then pointed to a chair. I sat.

He swiveled his chair around, back to me and continued his conversation. “Yes. I’m sure. Go ahead and send me that information. Yes. Uh huh. I see. You’ll still need to send it to me.” For a few seconds he listened intently to the voice on the other end. “Yes. Yes. Just send it to me. O.K. Bye.”

He banged the receiver down so hard on the phone that it rang in protest.

He took off his heavy rimmed glasses, rubbed his eyes and yawned. His long brown comb-over lay flat across the top of his head, undisturbed.

“Sorry about that. I didn’t get much sleep last night. Frantic students. Now, what can I do for you Miss?”

“I’m planning on transferring to the University next fall and I want to be sure I’m doing all I can to make that go smoothly,” I said.

“You what? Why in the world would you want to transfer?” He pulled a file out of the stack on his desk, opened it and flipped through the papers inside. “Looks like you’re doing well. Your grades are good, so why leave now?”

“I want to be a historian and the University has the best program for that.”

“You’ll be taking the same courses here as you would at the University, but it won’t cost your parents so much. How can you do that to your parents?”

“My parents support the idea.”

He stared at me for a long moment.

“Huh. I know why you’re doing this. You’re looking for an Mrs. degree and you think you’ll attract a guy with better prospects at the University.

It was my turn to stare. “I can’t believe you said that.”

“Look. It’s my job to try to keep successful students here for the whole two-year program. It’s better for the students, their families , the school and the faculty. You’re a good student. We don’t want to lose you.”

“You’re not going to keep students if you insult them. After talking to you, I’m more determined than ever to transfer next fall.” I stood, stomped to the door, flung it open and stalked out.

I did transfer to the University that fall. When I signed up for classes, I found an announcement that Course Historiography 235 was cancelled. This was the course designed to teach the techniques of historical research and writing. I did get a degree in history, but I did not become a historian.

Oh, and I did get married, but not to anyone I met at the University.

Prompt 11: Size Matters (In Sentences) : The Family Homestead

When I was nine, my family moved into a house where I lived until I married and moved out. It was a brand new house in a forest of almost-identical homes. A track home. When we first moved in, it was still neighbor to several orange groves. The orange grower slowly sold the remaining groves to developers until the only trees remaining were the stick-thin saplings held up with stakes planted in suburban lawns.

It was a nice house for the time. Three bedrooms, two baths, a fireplace and a two car garage. It had a dishwasher and a washer/dryer in the kitchen. Not a washer and dryer, but a washer/dryer, a two function machine that did not catch on. Technical difficulties, I’m told.

I lived there with my parents and sister. Eventually we added a cat with many kittens and a small dog.

The back yard was substantial. We lived at the end of a cul de sac. The yard was fenced and included a cement patio. My dad built a lounge chair, and my mother put a thick floral-printed cushion on top. A wooden picnic table and benches completed the patio furnishing.

My sister and I each had our own bedrooms for the first time. Three years older, she was glad not to have a room decorated with such juvenile things as dolls and stuffed animals. Her room was sophisticated, in keeping with her status as the older sister, and it was off limits to me. For some reason, she rarely invaded my room.

In the hall-way was a large black telephone seated on a special telephone stand. Our neighbor worked for the phone company and generously installed an extra long cord on the phone. It was so long, it reached into my sister’s bedroom. For private conversations, she said.

We lived in the middle of fast developing Southern California suburbia. Little was within walking distance. To get to work, grocery shopping, shopping-shopping, or my sister’s high school you needed a car or a bus.

My school was one of the few destinations an easy walk away. Like the house, the school was new. I was in the first class to attend. I became a cheerleader. Yes, this is not metaphoric, but literal. As I got older, I learned that admitting that you had been a cheerleader in middle school was not necessarily something to be proud of.  But it was part of my twelfth year and I will admit it here.

My sister completed high school, went to work, married and left home. A few years later I left for college, then married and moved out. Our parents continued to live in the house for a few more years. With the death of my grandfather and my grandmother’s declining health, they sold the house and moved into her more spacious house to care for her.

The house and the neighborhood fell on hard times. A fire in the San Bernardino Mountains threatened it one summer, but it escaped. It was eventually brought down by the loss of hope. Suburbia was not always an easy place to live.