It’s August 24, 2018: college move-in day. You’ve been waiting for this moment since the day you made up your mind that you were good enough to go to Yale last November. Your mom and her boyfriend are outside loading up the trunk of the Chevy Impala with your suitcases. Meanwhile, you’re in the kitchen stuffing your face with a ham and cheese sandwich. Your mother starts yelling from the trunk of the Chevy for you to come outside. You try to hurry up and shove the second half of the sandwich in your mouth but it won’t fit. Your mother calls again. Shoot. You have a decision to make. Sandwich or college. You take a fat bite and chew as you sling the strap of your book bag over your shoulder. You throw the ceramic plate in the trash and the remaining quarter of the sandwich in the sink. Whoops.
You jump into the car and your mother, who’s behind the wheel, starts backing down the driveway. Even with two mirrors on both sides of the car, a rear view mirror, a rear view backup camera, a back-up beeper, and her boyfriend’s foghorn voice yelling “stop Michelle!” she still manages to run into the stone mailbox to the left of the car. Just the bender you needed in your fender the day you show up to Yale. She doesn’t get out to check; “it can’t be that bad,” she says.
She changes gears to go forward and immediately, you hear a screeech. She tells you to peep over the luggage in the trunk and see what’s wrong. Your driving mom, that’s the problem.
Your mom slips out of the car to survey the unhinged bumper, then she dashes into the house. She emerges with a round, gray something in her hand: duct tape. You smack your forehead with the palm of your hand and let out an exasperated sigh. The hell, mom. Her frog-face boyfriend is feigning sleep so she makes you get out and help her sign and stamp your own death sentence. As you grudgingly slink out of the car, an image of your headstone flashes before your eyes: “death by humiliation,” it reads.
Thirty minutes later, you finish plastering wads of duct tape on the bumper and hop back into the car. As soon as you do, you hear a loud bang: the bumper has fallen back down. What a marvelous way to spend thirty minutes of your last few hours alive.
Your mom says “We’ve wasted enough time and it’s not that big of a deal anyway” so you guys finally take off for the seventeen-hour drive to Yale, duct-taped, scraping-on-the-ground bumper and all. By this point you’ve given up on trying to convince yourself that you belong at Yale; you now know for a fact that you don’t and that in sixteen and a half hours, your future classmates will too.
After a couple of hours, the musical scraping of the bumper starts to annoy you so you plug in your headphones, tilt your head back, and close your eyes. It’s nap-time.
Your mom has a special way of stopping at red-lights. She sees the light turn yellow, picks up speed to try to make it before it turns red, realizes she can’t, and screeeches to a halt. Today that halt would have likely sent you flying through the windshield had you not put on the seat belt to the right of you and the one to the left of you. You resolve to just stay up for the remaining sixteen hours. That way you can mentally and visually prepare yourself for any upcoming stoplights surprises. Out of curiosity, you peek around to the passenger seat in front of you and see that your mom’s log-of-a-boyfriend is now actually asleep, leaving you to be the only impostor in the car.
You discover within the next couple of hours that your mother has much more in store for you than just stop light surprises. She speeds. She swerves. She sings. With her eyes closed. At one point, she manages to turn down the wrong lane towards head-on traffic. At this point, you’ve completely forgotten about your college woes. You pray to God that if he gets you out of this alive, you will never ask for anything ever again.
Seventeen hours of reggae-music-blasting, service-station-stopping, speed-bump-jarring, red-light-running, back-bumper-dragging driving later, you finally arrive in New Haven. You’re amazed to discover that it’s a place where your mom’s driving finally fits in. Damn that. These people make your mother look like a NASCAR driver. Never mind the polished appearances of the Mercedes-Benz and Bentley cars stuck in the move-in-day traffic jam with you. You now know, after sharing the highway with them for twenty minutes, that it’s only a matter of time before they’ll need some duct tape too.
You chuckle to yourself as you reflect on how awfully your whole day’s been going. On the bright side, the roller coaster ride did get your mind off the dragging bumper. And, aside from the near-death experiences, it was kind of fun.
As you near campus, you hear the sounds of trombones, trumpets, and drums being played. You see processions of people in oversized blue and white Yale jerseys march past you. The smell of barbecued something permeates the air. The exuberant energy of the campus floods your being. As you get closer and closer to the parades of people, you feel the excitement in your stomach grow. Your mom parks beside a rack full of bikes, skateboards, and scooters. People in bright orange “MOVE-IN DAY STAFF” shirts rush over to greet you. They’re all smiling and seem genuinely happy to help you. You realize for the first time since deciding Yale was the college for you that this grand old Chevy you are so ashamed of is not a cop car turning you in for being an impostor, but rather a limo bringing you to a celebration.
As you gaze at the different modes of transportation, it suddenly dawns on you that no one cares about how you got to the celebration. They’re just happy you made it. You’re just happy you made it.