Thursday, June 2, 2011

The most awesome apartment ever; he just doesn't know it yet

Over the last few decades, there have been several different versions of the song "Big Yellow Taxi." You may be familiar with the refrain: Don't it always seem to go ... that you don't know what you've got till it's gone?

No truer words were ever spoken, and I was reminded of that tonight as I stood on Welch Avenue in Ames and looked up at the apartment my son will move into in August. It's on top of a bar, across from a Subway, and sandwiched between two tattoo parlors.

And while he's living there, he is going to have the time of his life. He may not realize it now, but I guarantee it's true.

I adored college. I didn't realize how much, as the song says, until I had graduated. Looking back, I really don't know how I had time to love it; I don't know how I had time to do anything but study or work. But I somehow found time to drink too much wine and lie on the floor, head to head, with six of my closest friends in a tiny apartment above a pizza parlor and debate at length the meaning of the words to Purple Rain.

College was where I finally realized that I wasn't 98 pounds and blond, and that I was really OK with that. It's where I learned I could be admired for knowing there's no period after the "Dr" in "Dr Pepper," and where I could debate at length my unpopular belief that the serial comma is occasionally acceptable. It's where I learned that I should never drink Long Island ice teas, dress like Madonna or allow my car to run out of oil.

And I didn't learn those things in the dorms. I learned them after I'd gotten used to college and opened myself up to the fact that it was the start of my real life.

My friends from that era have scattered. But when I see a post from Jane on my Facebook wall or read Gage's blog or see Jeff or Francie's pictures or hear of another of Brett's adventures, I remember our intense conversations and late nights and wonder if we had any idea back then what a gift it was to find others so much like our strange, wonderful selves.

When my kids are looking back at their university experiences through a 26-year-old lens, they won't remember the classes they took -- at least not the details. They won't remember walking to the farthest building on campus in subzero temperatures, and they won't even remember the fatigue that slams you at 4 a.m. when you're trying desperately to pull an all-nighter to cram for a test.

What they'll remember is this: Singing along, loudly and badly, to the music from a jukebox in a dive bar. Eating giant burritos at a storefront stand after last call. Flopping down on someone's 1970s plaid couch to have long, earnest, passionate conversations about nothing, and not caring that the springs are poking through the cushions.

I haven't seen the inside of Scott's new apartment yet, but from the looks of the outside -- coupled with the location -- it's the perfect backdrop for a busy, earnest senior year. I hope he stops from time to time to realize how much fun he's having.


  1. Now I'm all homesick for Drake. It's true, what you say: Sometimes you CAN'T know what you had until you look back at it. Thanks for reminding me to look back!

  2. Gage -- I'm so glad my daughter is there so I can relive it, in a way, through her eyes. It really was a special place, as goofy as that sounds.