My mother hates being late. I do too (I'm the type of person that awkwardly arrives forty-five minutes early to almost everything), but what makes us different is that her level of stress when it comes to tardiness far surpasses my own, or really that of anyone else that I know of. She especially hates being late when we're scheduled to visit a school both of us have been dying to see in real life for months, which happened to be Oberlin. And we're running late.
It was 1:03, and the tour was scheduled to start at 1pm. My mother was behind the wheel of a rent-a-car, frantically trying to locate Carnegie, the admissions building, yelling all sorts of things at me. The eleventh grade version of myself sat in the front seat a little helpless, knowing that I couldn't calm her down nor did I know where Carnegie was located. She suddenly caught sight of a tour group on a corner of Tappan Square (that happened to be the closest one to Carnegie), and I'm not sure how to describe the chain of events that came next because they all happened at once.
Being a supermom, my mother stopped the car immediately, then somehow reached over and unbuckled my seatbelt AND opened the passenger door, and pushed me out of the car. Of course I was not ready for any of this to happen, so I rolled out of the car and onto the sidewalk at the back of the tour group and landed in a heap of denim and messy hair. From my bewildered spot on the ground, I watched my mother zoom off with the rent-a-car for which I hoped she would find a parking space soon. I stood up, brushed myself off, and was relieved that no one on the tour seemed to notice the manner in which I had just arrived. Somehow, I knew my mother would locate me and catch up to the group in no time, she was my super-mother after all.
In a weird way, my first brush with Oberlin was like my birth: I was late (although not by 10 days) and my body was propelled through the air until I landed somewhere, and maybe that's why I loved it immediately. It all felt so natural. Or maybe it was because the tour guide was wearing the exact same striped socks as me (I have several identical pairs from Uniqlo that I will continue to darn into oblivion). But regardless of how I thought about it, it seemed like Oberlin loved me back from the very start, for I had miraculously garnered no injuries from my rather hazardous entrance. This to me was A Sign, a sign that this school would take care of me and take me as one of their own. In hindsight, I like to hyperbolize my fall onto campus by comparing it to the end scene of the movie Gravity, where Sandra Bullock's character, after (crash) landing back onto earth from space, dramatically lifts herself up from the ground and begins to walk while stirring soundtrack music plays.
But on a more serious level, I also feel that there's a special significance in my colliding with the ground that Oberlin is built upon. That year, I was enrolled in AP United States History, where I read in my textbook that Oberlin was the first college to admit African-Americans, as well as women later on. Looking into the history of the school even further, I was drawn to how the town of Oberlin was a "stop" on the Underground Railroad, and that no slave who had passed through the town had ever been brought back into slavery. For me, as a woman of color, the history of the College and town is incredibly significant to me. Thus when I fell out of the car and onto the ground, I was embraced by the legacy of a place that had made strides in breaking down some of the barriers that other people and women of color faced not long ago.
Now, whenever I see a tour group, I am always reminded of how I rolled onto campus two years ago, and I get an extra jolt of gratitude that I'm even able to be here. After this, I sometimes wonder if any of the kids on the tour had arrived to campus in a particularly dramatic fashion.