Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dylan got it wrong: The times have already changed.


Who remembers being twenty? If I rack my brain, I can vaguely recall being in a state of complete confusion. I had taken secretarial courses and was working at a law firm for a bully of a senior partner who kept me at my desk until late at night as he dictated corporate documents. I hated every minute of it, which is why I decided I had put off college long enough.
              Estlin—who is twenty—and Billy—barely twenty-one—are a different sort of young adult than I was. They may be the youngest couple to stay at Fern Forest Treehouse, and they may also hold the record for booking the coldest weekend ever. They had skied on Friday and settled into the treehouse as the temperature dipped to minus ten.
In the morning when they came in for breakfast, I asked, “Did you get cold?”
“No,” Estlin said. “It was toasty.”
They gobbled everything H and I put in front of them, fueling their furnaces for a cold and snowy Saturday. I wish I could remember when I was able to eat like that and stay as slender as Estlin. Never, I’d guess.
            They hung out in the treehouse after breakfast and then went to nearby Bristol to shop and walk around. That evening they accepted our invitation to come into the house and chat. I was a little nervous about what to talk to college juniors about. Nervous, too about offering them a glass of wine. But I offered anyway. Billy had a beer and Estlin took a little red wine. After five minutes, the generation gap vanished and conversation came easily.
            They’re both studying business at Plymouth State College, and Billy is thinking about law school after graduation. He’d like to do something in international law so he can travel. On the other hand, he likes medicine. While he was a full time student, he took evening classes to get his emergency medical tech certification for his ski patrol work. From six to ten p.m. one night a week, he sat in class with older guys—mostly firemen.
“They were loud, telling jokes and cutting up,” he said. He put the hood of his sweatshirt over his head and took notes.
The class interested him enough to think about medical school.
“I’d like to work in an emergency room,” he said.
We know an ER doc. The work isn’t easy. Drunk and drugged students in the middle of the night, car accidents, shootings, beatings. And weird stuff, too.
“I know all about that,” he said. “I’m in college.”
Oh, yes. I do remember those days.
Estlin is president of her sorority. We didn’t have sororities when I was at George Washington University. It was during the Vietnam protest era and student activists decided Greeks were counterrevolutionary. So sororities and fraternities were shut down on campuses across the country. But they’ve been back for a while. I believe Estlin takes her office seriously. She wants to go into marketing, especially helping to get the word out about environmental products and alternative energy.
“We’re called the entitlement generation,” Billy said. “People say we think we’re entitled to the good life instead of working for it.”
“I think you’re the responsible generation,” I said. “You’re responsible for fixing the mess we’re responsible for making.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “We’ve got a lot of responsibility on our shoulders.”
Before they left on Sunday, they took a dip in the hot tub. H told them to use the thick robes we provide, but Estlin dashed out in her bathing suit, barefoot. By that time the thermometer read two degrees above zero.
After a while, she came in rosy cheeked and smiling.
“Didn’t you get cold?” I asked.
“No,” she said. “It was great.”
Great, yes. If you’re twenty.
When H was their age, he was playing college hockey and thinking about the next game. When our son, who is 35, was their age, he should have been thinking about his chemistry class but was more interested in the next party. When I was Estlin’s age, I just wanted to write poetry and maybe become a movie actress.
Times change. And judging from the aspirations of this bright and ardent couple, I’m certainly glad they do.

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