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A Story of My Life, Part 4: Registration Day

Updated on October 25, 2011

Registration Day

I kissed my mom, and patted her on the back. She had tears in her eyes, and kept removing her glasses to wipe her eyes. She hugged me, showing me more affection than I ever remember getting from her.

"I'm going to miss you," she said.

"You will?" I was a little surprised. The parents were very strict, very harsh on the kids in my house, and we were constantly reminded of what a burden we were.

"You're the last one to leave home", she said. Oh, I thought to myself. That explains it. Being the seventh of seven children, I was "the baby of the family", and got to wear everyone's hand-me-downs, and most of the time felt like a completely superfluous afterthought.

Me, I couldn't wait to get going. I couldn't wait to get out on the road. Ahhhh, freedom!

Mom and I turned and looked at my beat-up old black Chevy, that I bought for $100, during apple picking season the year before. I called this thing "The Crate of Wrath" car. The Joads would have felt right at home in it.  It ran, I had to say that for it. But it looked a little saggy; it was weighted down with everything I owned, records, books, the few clothes I had, and a sewing machine I got passed down from my eldest sister Faye. How much sewing I thought I was going to do in college, I don't know. That poor old car! I remember it well--my first car. Rusty and missing three hub caps, but that baby had a V-8 under the hood and was built of solid metal made to last.

Mom and I smiled. She straightened her shoulders and got brisk. "You've got the map?"

("Yes, mom.)

"Enough money?"

("I guess.")



"Call me when you get there. I mean it. Don't forget."


Dad came out to the front porch from the garden. He was looking even more solemn than usual. I didn't know what to say to him, or he to me. He just stood there, contemplating the situation. When he was silent it was best to keep silent. He sincerely thought children shouldn't even be seen unless one couldn't help it, much less heard.

Finally, he turned to me. He put his hand in his pocket, then shook my hand.

He put a fifty dollar bill in my hand. That surprised me even more than mother's tears. My Dad was a famous miser.

I got on the open road, breathing a sigh of relief. I wondered how much time Dad spent contemplating that last move. I had to shake my head. People will surprise you, given half the chance.

After I found the Thruway, I was pretty much set to cruise. Albany State University was due east, and I couldn't very well get lost. I put on the radio and bopped along, keeping an eye on the gas gauge. Ah, freedom! Such joy in being out on my own! I felt a little guilty about it. I left my mother wiping her eyes once again, and all that I felt was relief, an enormous, unbounded relief, and joy.

I took the wrong exit once I got to Albany, of course. I wasn't used to city driving at all, having been brought up out in the country. I discovered how very difficult it is to drive and look at a map at the same time. I drove around for what seemed like hours!

I was close to panic when I found some State University signs to follow, and finally made it to the campus. I parked--anywhere, I didn't care. I felt like I never wanted to see my car again. Then I walked for what seemed like miles to get to the Student Union, where the fall registrations were held. This campus was so big, so intimidating to me. I had gone to a Central School--all thirteen grades in one building. I had to keep stopping and peering at the campus map signs posted, and my sense of spatial orientation, which was never good, had taken kind of a beating, getting lost in the city of Albany.

Once inside the Student Union, the lines seemed to stretch forever. Everyone was getting their meal tickets and course registration cards and room assignments and so forth. It was a big, busy, crowded place, and theere must have been many people as lost and confused as I felt, but they didn't look it and I'm afraid I did. I felt like a yokel--definitely uncool.

I calmed down after a little while. There was no one to hold my hand, but that was OK. There were signs directing people to the correct line to get in for the correct purpose, so much of the day was spent waiting in line. After I got past my initial angry uneasiness, I was able to be more observant, and things got a lot better.

Nobody talked to me. I remember to this day how that felt. All these kids from all over the place talked to each other, but no one talked to me. I felt shunned, but that was nothing new to me. I took a novel from my bookpack, and started to read, shuffling along in line. Oh, yes, I definitely could have taken the Nerd of the Year award. I didn't realize it at the time, but that sent a message to the other kids.

I shrugged, kept shuffling along, and thought to myself, "These people don't want to know me? Fine. Books are better than people, anyway. Books don't hurt your feelings."

When I was done with the process, I looked around for a payphone to call Mom. I promised her I'd call. It was late afternoon, trickling towards evening, by this time. I found I had to wait in line to use the phone. Waiting in line, AGAIN! I finished the first novel I was working on and started on another.

I called Mom, and let her know I made it alright. She sounded distant and distracted, so the phone call was brief. She asked me, "Do you want to talk to your father?" and I thought, "What about?" I know this makes me seem like a hard case. A person with a bad attitude in her heart. But really. What could I say to this man, when I was so frightened of him for years?

I passed on that, saying I had to get to the car, and had a few more things to do.

I went out the front door of the Student Union. I had to find my car, and this was a challenge for me, as I didn't know where I left it.

I really took the tour of that campus, on foot, as day settled into evening. There were many parking lots dotting the campus, near the many buildings the campus contained. I went around and around, lost.

I thought, "Will this day never end?" I was feeling very tired, and a little deflated. My grand entrance into the big old world wasn't quite going like I planned.

I finally found my car, nestled next to the Humanities Building. I was elated! I Found My Car!

A campus cop was standing right next to it.

He was writing a ticket.

"Uh-oh!" I thought. Money. And I really didn't have any extra.

"Miss?" the campus cop said, "is this your car?"

"Yes," I said, "and I'm so glad I found it. I've been looking for it for hours, I had forgotten where I parked."

The cop gave me an assessing look, then looked at the car. He started laughing. He said, "Where did you find this car? In a home for the elderly vehicles?"

I tried to smile. I'd sweet-talk him out of the ticket, if I could. The campus cop gave me a break, he could see I didn't have any money, but he said I had to go and get a parking permit, and then told me where I was allowed to park. Apparently I lighted on a faculty parking lot in my travels, and the student parking was much further away, and so was the administration building where I had to get the permit.

So I rescued the Crate of Wrath and got it all legal. By the time I was done with that, night had fallen.

And I still had to find my way to my brother's house on Orange Street, in Albany.

This being an adult business certainly wasn't what it was cracked up to be!

I just caught this, in my reading, from Jerry Seinfeld's "Sein Language", and I wanted to share. I thought this was a good place to put it:

Life is truly a ride. We're all strapped in and no one can stop it. When the doctor slaps your behind, he's ripping your ticket and away you go. As you make each passage from youth to adulthood to maturity, sometimes you put your arms up and scream, sometimes you just hang onto the bar in front of you. But the ride is the thing...

The most you can hope for at the end of life is that your hair's messed, and you're out of breath...


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    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thank you, internetwriter!

    • Internetwriter62 profile image


      8 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      Your car may have been old, but it was your ticket to freedom, your wheels. I'm glad that your parents showed you some love on that day. I know that doesn't make up for a lifetime of suffering. I can see why you and your brother found solace in the written word and the world of books, I often did back in high school. Yes people hurt you, but books give comfort, not mention information and wisdom that is passed along.

      I really have enjoyed your autobiography so far, can't wait to get to chapter five.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks, Tammy!

    • profile image

      Tammy Lochmann 

      8 years ago

      I had a crate of wrath too...Dark green huge chevy had to rev it to get it into drive...she was a smooth ride. On to 5.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      I can so relate to what you were feeling, Justine. When I left, I sort of shook the dust of my old home off my feet with a huge sigh of relief.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This was great and I really loved the quote!! My first car was a 1979 Chevy Nova, and I destroyed it. I had no idea what the litte "genie lamp" symbol was trying to tell me, and I drove the poor thing for 4 months without a drop of oil in it! I remembr my Mom sobbing because I was moving out, after they told me to get out in no uncertian terms. I remember how my heart lept for joy when the car door slammed behind her, and I knew I would never have to step foot into her house again.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks, mega, you haven't seen anything yet!

    • mega1 profile image


      8 years ago

      yep, brave.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      There you go, Jen, it's all a ride. Thanks for coming along!

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 

      8 years ago from Delaware

      How brave you were. I LOVE "the crate of wrath" and was so relieved to read your first day at college finally came to an end! (smile) Your father and mother's actions shocked me as well.

      What an excellent story-teller you are, Paradise! I find myself glued to every word.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thank you so much, Duchess! I did, in my own way I did.

    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 

      9 years ago

      This was an enjoyable read Paradise7. Your style and sense of humor has an opportunity to shine in this one. I hope your time in College saw some happiness.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Oh, that's ok, dohn. You've got a terrific life of your own going on, including the novel you've written. Good luck to you, you're a terrific writer, yourself.

      Yes, my experiences were awkard alright. I don't really know if I'd call them'll see.

    • dohn121 profile image


      9 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      Sorry that I'm so late to read this, Paradise7! I enjoyed the story and it bought back memories of my college story of Plattsburgh with my family. It seems as if your experience was bit awkward and pale in comparison to others, as most of the time, it's a fulfilling and exciting time! Thanks again.

    • sukhera143 profile image


      9 years ago from Home

      Good sharing.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks, SoftCorn. It was ok after I calmed down. All part of growing up, learning how to handle it when things don't go our way!

    • SoftCornHippo profile image


      9 years ago

      Man, I sure hope your life started gettin better fast! I'm readin this and I'm thinkin' it coulda been worse, but I'm sure glad it wasn and all. An you know I can relate to losin' the car in the parkin' lot - I still have nightmares about that very thing!

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks, Laura! It was, you'll see.

    • Laura du Toit profile image

      Laura du Toit 

      9 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks for sharing Paradise7.

      It was a change from the previous hubs - I like your humor.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thank you both, rmcrayne and Whistler!

    • Whistler2417 profile image


      9 years ago from Mississippi

      And I thought forgetting where you parked was an old age thing. Good daily life story.

    • rmcrayne profile image


      9 years ago from San Antonio Texas

      Thanks again for sharing a well written and deeply hued story. "See you" next week for V.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thank you, Catherine, for the comment. Yeah, I think we all needed a little break. I got up this morning thinking about the "Crate of Wrath". I loved that car--my real ticket to ride. My sister Carole named her car, "Bilbo". You know, I think somebody on Hub Pages used that exact expression, referring to THEIR old beater of a car. Funny, that, I thought it was original with me. Who knows, it might have been--MY "Crate of Wrath" goes back to about 1976!

      I'm getting a following with these stories from my life, and I'm kind of amazed. I don't think there's anything special, but other people are finding something here. Maybe some truth.

      It's all good, and I'm grateful for the appreciation. So grateful, you wouldn't believe.

    • Catherine R profile image

      Catherine R 

      9 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      This was great - as usual. And much easier on the emotions of the reader this week. I was so glad to be escaping with you. It made me remember my first day at College - similar the world over. Of course all those kids were nervous as hell and none of them knew what they were doing but you need hindsight to appreciate that. I too am eagerly awaiting part 5!

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thank you both for following these stories. I enjoy your comments so much, but you flatter me. (Blush!) I'm writing one a week of the autobiography hubs, and the rest of the time about all the other subjects which fascinate me. So Part V will be along next Sunday.

    • Veronica Allen profile image

      Veronica Allen 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      Paradise7, you truly have a way of writing a story to make the reader feel as if they are truly going through experiencing. I felt as if it was my first day of college, and as if it were I saying goodbye to my mother and father. I always look forward to your life stories, and I can't wait for more.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Too short, I want to hear more... is part 5 done yet?

      Seventh of seven kids, wow. I think we all have a crate of wrath in our past.

      waiting for the next installment

      regards Zsuzsy


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