Last week John and I accompanied Sophie to her new school in Portland, Oregon, Reed College. All summer long I have had worst-case scenarios playing in my head. All summer long I tried to hide my anxiety of this 16-year-old girl going off to college. All summer long I tried to come to grips with the possibility that she may never live with us again, unless here for a visit. Life’s passages. Launching a child is, in my opinion, so much harder than launching one’s self. She’ll be 17 in September. I was cool with her skipping first grade. I was a basket case this summer.
Take a look at the photo here at the Reed College website. Sophie is on the right side, fourth student back, in a blue shirt with her left hand held high. That’s my girl and this is the class of 2020.
Last spring, John and Sophie visited colleges across the country. Reed was clearly the best fit and we were thrilled that the school felt the same way about Sophie. It’s a tough school to get into. It’s a small private school with 1,400 undergraduates enrolled. We learned at convocation that the class of 2020 is all in the top 98 percent for ACT scores.
People who know of Reed refer to its beautiful campus, that it is nerd central, a geek domain, a safe haven for students of all stripes. Themed dorms exist for students interested in living with others who share the same interests, such as students of color, gardening and farming, substance free, musically inclined, outdoors enthusiasts. Sophie is in the Woodbridge dorm, aka, the Mad Science dorm. Of course she is.
When we were at the orientation events I realized that Sophie was definitely in her element. Nerdiness is coolness. Independent thinking is encouraged. Appreciating the differences in each other broadens their scope. As I observed the other freshmen and their parents, I was comforted in realizing that this will be home for her, this will be her anchor, these students will be her friends, and that she is right where she belongs.
At Reed, It is mandatory for first-year Reedies to take Humanities 110, an intense year-long course where the students read:
- Aeschylus, The Oresteia, trans. Fagles (Penguin)
- Anonymous, The Epic of Gilgamesh, trans. George (Penguin)
- New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, trans. Coogan, et al. (Oxford)
- Curd, ed., Presocratics Reader: Selected Fragments and Testimonia, trans. McKirahan (Hackett)
- Freeman, Egypt, Greece and Rome (Oxford)
- Herodotus, The Histories, trans. Selincourt (Penguin)
- Hesiod, Theogony and Works and Days, trans. Lombardo (Hackett)
- Homer, The Iliad, trans. Lattimore (Chicago)
- Miller, Greek Lyric: An Anthology in Translation (Hackett)
- The Tale of Sinuhe and Other Ancient Egyptian Poems, trans. Parkinson (Oxford)
- Sophocles, Sophocles I: Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone, trans. Grene and Lattimore (Chicago)
- Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, trans. Warner (Penguin)
- Various Readings on The Ancient Mediterranean and Western Asia available on e-reserves
The Hum110 reading list is designed to stimulate ideas and discussions, inspire the students as they write the required papers, and help them shape and plan their senior theses, the ticket to graduation. While all first-year students have to take this course, they also have to take two other courses for their major. Sophie is taking biology and chemistry. She is also in an orchestra section, as she wants to continue playing her viola.
So many emotions and thoughts that I just cannot share. Not that I want to hide my vulnerabilities, but that it’s important to accept this new stage in our lives. I will admit that when we left her, it was with incredible sadness and the hardest thing I had ever done. Parenthood, while an amazing experience, is life at its best and at its worst. It takes you to the edge. When your child makes the leap to college, you have to be confident in who they have become.
You go, Sophie!