‘Tis the season for applications at the Crowley home. My daughter is applying to high school and my son is applying to college. I am cooking a lot of food. When my kids hunker down to do extended schoolwork or in this case, extended applications, I function like a combination cheerleader and short-order cook. I check on my kids occasionally, talk them off the ledge if they are despairing, and provide liberal servings of turkey and grilled cheese sandwiches and steak fajitas. This gives my son and daughter the strength to complete their tasks and I feel immense satisfaction that I am contributing on some level to their success.
Mention the word “application” and parents of teens shudder. In my day, I applied to two colleges. I was going to apply to a third, but the essay seemed like too much trouble and I felt confident that I would be accepted to one of my first two choices. Times have changed. My son will probably apply to nine colleges, which is considered on the low side. The common application AKA “the common app” is supposed to alleviate some of the tedious data entry, but only four of the colleges to which he is applying accept the common app.
Some of the application questions elude me. For example, my daughter has been asked to identify her favorite quote. If I were asked this question, I would be dumbstruck. The ability to summon up a favorite quotation represents a major hole in my education. I can tell you the lyrics of a number of Top 40 songs that ruled the charts between 1970 and 1981 especially any Carly Simon, James Taylor or Carole King hits. I specialize in these three artists’ recordings.
But I was never asked to memorize a single literary quote in my long education. Now it’s too late because my memory is shot. Anything from my life that I remember took place between the ages of 10 and 21. I don’t know what happened to my brain after that, but I never learned all the words to a favorite song again, let alone a poem or quote from literature.
Sometimes I feel intimidated when I read a book that uses a lot of quotes from other sources. I wonder, “Do these authors annotate everything they read and if so, where do they find the time, or do they have amazing memories, or do they just Google a lot?” Personally, I Google a lot. I’m not proud of this, but let’s face it, everyone does it. I couldn’t write my way out of a paper bag without Google and my virtual Thesaurus.
I do have a few sayings that I draw upon, and naturally they’re from my mother who could quote Shakespeare if prompted, even though her daughter can’t. They’re more like Patsy proverbs because that was my mom’s name and her words communicated useful thoughts like a proverb does. She often told me, “Simplicity is the key to style,” advice I have taken to the extreme at times.
My mom also told me “not to get attached to material things,” counsel that I did not appreciate when it was dispensed but has carried me through many a disappointment.
I think if admissions officers really want to understand the essence of a student, they should ask them to identify and interpret a memorable quote from a parent or caregiver. The variety of responses would open up a Pandora’s Box of emotions. One thing I know for sure, you can’t Google those memories.
Here’s one of my favorite songs from Carole King. I could sing this song in my sleep and probably have, just in case you were wondering.