Oh say can U.C.?

My first child was two days old when my father started discussing where Alli would go to college.    And he never stopped talking about it.    He was intense.    When she turned out to be precocious, his predictions got more intense—it was Ivy League all the way.

This wasn’t unpredictable.  He’d been equally intense with me.   Only I was far more malleable than Alli turned out to be.

My father didn’t live long enough to see the results.  Which  in some ways made it easier for me —-since I didn’t have to tell him what she did.

I’ve written about this— but if you don’t know the story, the bottom line is that she rejected the idea of the Ivy League.  She wanted to stay in California, and attend a public university.  The University of California system is outstanding— I could live with that.  Until she rejected UCLA and Berkeley– and rejected going to college at all.

It’s amazing what you can get used to , and how different things look with some perspective.   After 4 years supporting herself working  at the UPS store,   with her new husband serving a year in Iraq– by the time Alli enrolled in our local junior college,  it looked as good to me as Harvard.   And when her husband came home from Iraq and she continued her education at the University of Texas, El Paso— that looked good to me, too.   Amazing how a little reality check can change reality.

Last winter he was headed to Iraq again.   So Alli decided to leave Texas, and finish up her undergraduate degree in California.   The only problem was that the application deadline was long gone.   I didn’t know this, but it turns out that you can appeal for an application after the deadline—if you have good reasons.  Which Alli had.

I won’t describe all the hoops she had to jump through.   I’ll skip to the ending, and it’s happy.  Not only did she get accepted,  but the school is paying her way.

Alli’s new advisor told her what colleges call people like Alli:  non-traditional students.  They are not like most of the college kids I’ve known—- who come straight out of high school and live on campus and attend school fulltime.

“Non-traditional” certainly describes my daughter—who started college when she was in her 20’s,  works fulltime while taking classes, and has now attended as many colleges as Sarah Palin.

And now she’s come full circle—not only back to California, but also back where she started— the University of California.

006bc01tHer dad, her brother and I went with her last week to visit the school where she will take the next step in her education—  UC Irvine.  None of us had ever seen it and we were all impressed—not  just by the beautiful campus, but by its high academic standing.

While we walked around, Alli turned to me, and asked,  “What do you think Grandpa would think?’

I stand there, and think of the 25 years that led to this moment.   I  can’t decide if I feel more like crying with relief or shouting for joy.   I look at my amazing daughter, the “non-traditional student”  my father would never see.   And I tell Alli what I know my father would say:  “Grandpa would feel incredibly proud of you.”


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  1. says

    Hi Darryle,

    I’m the Guide to Continuing Education at About.com, part of the New York Times Company.

    I was thrilled to find your blog this morning and blogged about you and Alli on my site: http://adulted.about.com/

    Congrats to both you and your daughter. It’s never too late to follow a dream!


    Deb Peterson
    Guide to Continuing Education
    About.com, part of the New York Times Company

  2. says

    Thank you Deb, for letting me know, and for sharing stories like Alli’s—that can provide inspiration for so many people.

    Your comment is especially significant to me—it would make her grandfather even prouder to know that Alli’s story ended up on your site. Because there was nothing my father admired more than more than the New York Times: http://tinyurl.com/lhrhze Thanks again.

  3. says

    Darryle, I love your sense of humor in the face of all you have gone through. As we have come to learn, it beats the alternative! As I’m sure we have discussed before, I am convinced that our children are here to guide us as much as we are here to guide them. Sometimes with Danielle, I feel like I’m not holding up my end of the bargain. Congratulations to Alli for knowing herself and her needs, and pursuing them courageously even when no one else was so sure.

  4. says

    Congrats to your daughter…my sister was a pretty non-traditional student. She was extraordinarily bright, dropped out of HS her junior year and lived in SF practically on the streets. She ended up taking the GED, so she started college with the rest of her class, and graduated in three years, the last 2 at UC Irvine living off campus. Then on to law school. After reading “Weapons of Mass Instruction” my college obsessed family thinks non-traditional may be a better way to go.

  5. says

    Thank you so much for your comments. Obviously I”m not the only one with “non-traditional” children. I’m convinced as you are Deborah, that they are here to guide us rather than vice versa. Despite the doubts (that we all share) I’m SURE you are holding up your end of the bargain.
    Nicole– ironic about UC Irvine—never thought of Orange County as a place to attract “non-traditional” types like Alli or your sister. Also “Weapons of Mass Instruction” sounds intriguing, will have to check it out.

  6. Ron says

    Every time you write about one or both of your children, I sense the “kvell” and I get chills. Both Alli and Daniel are so special and, as I have said countless times since I have become hopelessly addicted to INSUFT, I know they know how lucky they are to have a Mom like you. A mom that loves them so intensely that she aches when she is not with them and yet basks in the brilliant light that they have come to radiate and share with all they come in contact with.

    P.S. My new office is in Irvine. I feel like Alli and I are sharing the same aura. Gosh, sounds like I am aching to return to the 60’s and boy does it show.

  7. says

    Ron, your comment is SO appreciated and thoughtful—and if you’re addicted to my blog, that makes me “kvell” even more.
    I’m surprised to learn that you—and several other people who contacted me after reading this—-are working in Irvine.
    I’m no expert— but all I can say from my very brief visit to Orange County is that you’re in the wrong place if you’re aching to return to the 60’s. You should be here in Carmel or Big Sur.

  8. says

    Kids will make their own way no matter what mom wants. Congratulations to Alli, but congratulations to you too for supporting her in all the choices she has made.

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