If Tolstoy had attended New Family Weekend at Texas A&M University he might have revised his famous line to read, New Families are all alike. I had imagined a weekend among New Families just like us, helping our freshman find his way, establishing new traditions, and being part of something bigger than ourselves.
But we missed the New Family check-in on Friday night because of teenagers not interested in driving to College Station. Thereafter, captive teenagers restricted communication to text messages, and they really had something to text about when we checked into the last motel room in town. Note to new New Families: reserve hotel room at time of initial application to school. We missed the Second Chance Check-In and showed up at an Aggie football game wearing sky blue, to the mortification of our freshman. He tried to lose us in the sea of maroon (official school color) but failed, owing to the blueness of our shirts. The one family member wearing a maroon t-shirt, did however, get lost. Everything was in confusion in our row as we spent most of the game searching for the lost family member and responding to emergency text messages from stay-at-home-son requesting a remote pizza order (parent refused) and informing us that the family dog had chewed a bottle of melatonin (dog survived).
And then a cannon fired and I thought we were finished forever.
But our team had scored, and the marching band launched into the Aggie Fight Song. Our freshman knew the words. All eighty-three thousand people stood and the maroon shirted person next to me reached out with his left arm and told me to place my right leg behind his left leg so he could catch me if I fell. He didn’t care that my shirt was blue and my teenagers were texting or lost. We swayed, along with eighty-three thousand other maroon shirted people, and I realized the sense of unconditional belonging, a reason we’d wanted this school for our freshman. And I silently blessed my neighbor for taking us newbies under his wing.
If we hadn’t missed the New Family Tailgate Party I’m certain that we would have met others just like us.