Going back to school is where I find myself again for the 3rd time since high school. Only this time, it has been ten years since I last stepped into a classroom of peers. And these peers are younger now than my youngest child. Which brings me to a personal, emotional and social level of which I have never entertained.
Am I struggling this time? You betcha. Struggling to find the information that is buried under ten years of work, businesses, kids, marriage, and other assorted and useless crap that floats inside a cramped brain. My husband applauds me at times when I can “pull stuff out of my ass” like names of obscure songs or an acquaintance from 20 years ago, whose name will disappear for another 10 years till I perform one of these miracles again.
Struggling to find the terminology. Use it or lose it they say. Truer words were never spoken. Why the need for me to remember (I am pulling out my book right now to find one of those lost terms just to type here.) “ethnomethodology” or “exogamy” when I can easily come up with personal experiences that describe each? I have lived in exogamy for 28 years when I married my husband who was way outside my group of peers and family. Explain THAT term to me, all you 19 and 20-year old classmates!
Yet, when I try to use some of that experience when talking about how children use (another term) critical thinking (I know, because I watched my children use that skill over and over.) I get slammed down with more terminology and textbook rhetoric by some young woman in class who has yet to take her savvy into the working world or family dynamic. My “I will take no shit” attitude, honed well after a few years in the big world outside the campus, is tempered that day, thanks to the years spent arguing with my own children, and I bite my tongue, smile to myself, and vow to “get her” another day.
I just need to get my chops back as musicians say. Work out the cobwebs that have multiplied in the school section of my brain. It will all come back I try to convince myself. In a sociology class on inequality, where race and gender are hot topics these days, I add that age is a huge area of inequality. That statement falls to the floor with a huge bang and is accompanied by blank stares from my fellow classmates. I know, how could they possibly understand?
After class, the Marxist zealot, Mary, asks if I want her phone number and email, “in case I need some help.” Was I that pathetic in class? Do I look like I am lost and need help? Will she gain points by helping the poor old lady in class that appears lost and is babbling about weird things like age inequality?
Ok, I say. Sure. Why not? I will take it. Then I pray she won’t give me her information first and force me to take my no name, Verizon LG phone/text only phone out of my pocket to enter the data on the old fashioned keyboard so she will really know how old I am and start talking to me in a louder voice, s-l-o-w-l-y so I can catch the words of a young student. Thankfully, she has her iPhone in her hand already and enters the data. I answer her text later when I am alone. Dare I explain the added costs of two more iPhones in our household when the children are the only breadwinners at the moment? Dare I tell her I really don’t need an iPhone? I have a first generation iPad. What more does one need?
That night my son, the same age as my new school chum Mary, asked me where we were going that he was forced (God forbid) to pick up his brother from the airport.
It’s Usama’s birthday party.
Oh, how old is he? my son asks.
I think 61 or 62, I said.
And he is still cutting hair?
Yes, I answered. And he is still breathing. And can walk without help, too.
He looked at me, puzzled by my sarcastic answer. Same look I received when talking to my classmates about age inequality in the workplace. I almost replied to them with my mother’s constant retort to me, “just you wait till you get my age!” I guess we all become our parents at some point, a little more understanding, patient, and willing to let some things slide. Not everything. Just some. When my school brain gets back in shape, just you wait, you little whippersnappers! I will find something useful to say, once I can find it and pull it up from the bowels of my overpacked noggin!