Saturday morning we had coffee and biscuits at the Bob Evans next to our Motel 6. (Don't laugh until you've had those biscuits. And don't have the biscuits without the honey.)
After that little snack, we drove the 8 miles south thru the farm fields to Oberlin, parked next to the tennis courts on the north side of campus, and walked to Tappan Square in the middle of town. That's where Ben was supposed to meet us.
We sat on a bench for a while in the morning sun watching people come and go, keeping our eyes peeled for him. He's not hard to spot at a distance — the hair, the hands in his pockets, the way he walks. And soon enough, there he was, at the far corner of the square in a green pullover sweater. We got up and began walking toward him. I waved, but he wasn't looking in our direction. He disappeared behind a massive Sycamore tree and didn't come out the other side. When we got near and walked around the tree, he was on the sidewalk talking to a friend.
It was Hazel. Hazel, who also works at the Old Barrows food co-op. Hazel, who calls Ben on the phone when they have to make a trek across campus to ask if he wants to share her bike. Hazel, who came from a boarding school so small that Oberlin seems large to her.
Ben smiled when he turned, and he introduced us. Then we went to breakfast at The Feve just down the street (large pancakes and omelets for them, one egg each and some bacon for us, since those Bob Evans biscuits were still hanging on).
Afterwards, we walked across the street to Ginko Gallery.
A bell rang as we opened the door. Hazel and Ben walked straight into the store, past the pottery, past the weavings, past the artsy greeting cards, even past the colored pencils (which Ben pointed at when he got my attention). They walked past the cash register into a artist's work area and then into a room in the far back.
And there in two cages were kittens. Tiny little mewing kittens. Gray kittens. Orange kittens. Kittens who still had blue eyes. Kittens who fell asleep in the crooks of your arms as you held them.
And with that, with biscuits and eggs and bacon and coffee and ... kittens, we were ready for the rest of the day.
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So on Friday morning we got a look at life in the freshman dorm. The piles of laundry. The closet doors wedged open by stuff. The posters on the wall. The computer printer sitting on a bed. We got a look at all that, and if felt ... normal.
We asked him if he could give us a tour of campus, tell us what he does where, give us a day-in-the-life intro to Oberlin.
"Well, I've set aside all day tomorrow and Sunday to spend with you guys. Right now I really need to sleep."
Uh, ok. Frankly the college set up lots of stuff for parents, so that was ... ok. We made plans to meet later outside his Political Theory class, which was open to parents. And we left him to nap.
We walked a bit around campus ourselves among the Oak trees that still had their leaves. We saw a huge Beech tree beside King Hall that still clung to a few remaining golden leaves. We had lunch in Stevenson cafeteria. We went to The Cat in the Cream to hear students playing Salsa and Jazz. We took pictures of campus. We went to the science building, where there was wine and cheese and other snacky things and the Oberlin steel drum band playing outside and other parents to talk to and a science library where I found two books that I want to read. And we went to the main library, where I lingered too long in the QA section, making us miss the a cappella choir. And we went to Finney Chapel to hear the Oberlin orchestra play Beethoven and Saint-Seans beneath the huge wooden beams that hold up the roof with the towering stainless steel organ pipes climbing the far wall behind the stage.
Somewhere in there, we went to meet Ben at his class. The students trickled in. The professor showed up. We could see them rearranging the chairs into a circle. And then Ben walked up, smiling when he saw us from down the hall.
No other parents had shown up, so Trudy asked, "Are you sure it's ok for us to come in?"
He looked at us.
"Are you sure?" Trudy asked again.
"It's ok, just say yes or no," I said.
He looked at us and then pouted and shook his head.
"Ok, that's fine. It really is."
And we walked away.
Tomorrow. Tomorrow and Sunday. He said he'd spend tomorrow and Sunday with us.
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