Coed Majoring in Phys Ed

I never went away to college. When I graduated from Roosevelt High School, my parents couldn’t afford to send me Downstate to the University of Illinois, or to other places my wealthier classmates chose. So every day, I took the CTA to Roosevelt University where I was granted a partial scholarship. And following classes, I again rode the trains to a part-time job.

As I look back, this was hardly an idyllic undergrad campus experience. But, because my best friend, Ruth, also went to Roosevelt, and because I received a great education, I didn’t feel deprived.

Now, in this new chapter of my rookie widow life, a bit of imaginary campus life seems to be emerging. Often, I feel as if I were a freshman, away from home for the first time, majoring in Physical Education.

I was explaining my theory to Ruth, who is still my best friend after all these years. “You’re right on one count,” she said. “We both went straight from our parents’ homes to our marriages. There was no period of time when we were on our own.”

One of my daughters, who was also given the hypothesis, disagreed: “What about the time you and Dad separated?” she said. “You lived alone then.”

“Somehow, this is different,” I said. “You two girls were still in Chicago and stopped in often enough that I felt as if I were living the same life. Just without him.”

I’ve been musing about this sensation of a freshman year and believe some of it may be related to home furnishings, some to the youthful population in my apartment building, and some to my more active life.

Because my apartment is a convertible studio, with a bedroom behind a sliding door, the queen-sized bed that Tommy and I shared  was deemed too large. So, I dropped down a size to a “full,” better to suit my fictitious dorm room.

Also, I took with only a few pieces from our former three-bedroom home and got them painted in bright colors. This update has made it appear that the kitchen table, coffee table, and hall table are not only brand new, but purchased at kicky Ikea. Surely, that’s where true coeds find their furniture.

I revealed the other half of my conjecture -- my chosen major -- to another daughter. “So, Phys Ed,” she said. There was a pause while she likely recalled her mother’s previous attempts to learn how to swim, my start-and-stop gym memberships, as well as my lack of coordination.

“Should I expect to see you in a league?” she asked. “Uniform with logo on the back?”

I smiled and accepted the skepticism, which I knew was trimmed in pride. Both daughters are my biggest supporters in my recent sad-to-swift journey from married-to-widow, from home owner-to-apartment dweller.

“No leagues,” I said. “But, I work out every day. I take Yoga three days a week, have a personal trainer one day, do the workout on my own two more days, take swim lessons and paddle by myself whenever I can fit it in.”

“Good for you, Momma,” she said. I’d like to think that a vision of an active parent striving to keep fit, who has elected to live in a tower of mostly thirty-somethings rather than with peers in in assisted living, delights my kid. 

In my imaginative college life, I’ve also decided that I live on a campus. You see, the health club where I work out is attached to my apartment building, so I have the sense that I’m trekking the quadrangle. 

Here’s another aspect of university life that supports my theme: class assignments and homework. In the real world, I’m still operating my public relations business and my sidelines of coaching writing and using Apple mobile devices.

While my Phys. Ed workouts are a priority, there’s a danger of neglecting revenue-producing work, sort of like flunking out. And, this time around, without an empathetic university to grant me funds, hitting the books is essential. But, without frat parties, sorority mixers, or other late night revelries, I should be able to pass my freshman year.

Of course, if I wanted  to bring my make-believe world closer to a true collegiate experience, there should be a roommate sharing my space. While a corporeal buddy would be ideal, this coed will settle for framed photographs of a beloved husband. Like me, my Tommy missed the campus experience. Let’s try this together, sweetheart:

We're loyal to you, Illinois,
We're "Orange and Blue," Illinois,
 We'll back you to stand 'gainst the best in the land,
 For we know you have sand, Illinois,  Rah! Rah!