19: A Life Saver

19: A Life Saver

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Getting In...To College

A Life Saver

Mother love is the fuel that enables a normal human being to do the impossible.

~Marion C. Garretty

As I sucked on a strong peppermint, my stomach continued to perform the hokey pokey. I wasn’t sure if that was the exact dance, but it certainly was “shakin’ all about.” There was something a little ridiculous about trying to fight a tsunami of nausea with the small life-preserver of a lozenge at 6:00 A.M. on a Saturday morning. However, my mom had assured me that it would somehow allow me to relax and to stimulate my neurons, allowing the correct responses to flow freely onto the answer sheet.

It was ironic that the test center had recommended eating a large, nutritious breakfast before enduring the infamous ACT. How a person whose entire future was resting on one number was possibly going to consider stopping at a local Bob Evans to down the “Sunshine Skillet” was beyond me. As I sat in the passenger seat, I reflected on the bland English muffin and low fat cheese stick that I had consumed earlier that morning. I felt that I had done an adequate job of eating a meal that would get me through the test, but it didn’t seem to be settling so well in my stomach.

“Honey, you can’t study for this type of test. You’ve been preparing for twelve years, learning all of this material,” my mom carefully counseled.

Apparently, she felt the need to interrupt the staring match with my reflection in which I was engrossed.

“I guess, but what if I blank out? What if I don’t score high enough to get into Miami?” I countered without pausing to take a breath.

“Oh, you’ll be fine. What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

Incredulous, I was trying to explain that all of my future success was riding on this moment, leaving me baffled as to why she was so calm. However, I made sure to contain my thoughts in my head and didn’t have time to fully debate the subject as we had all too quickly arrived at my designated testing center.

Fighting my way through the hoodie-infested crowd, I finally determined in which room I would meet my fate. My fellow Hs, Is, and Js all fingered our two, super-sharp, number two pencils in anticipation of the maze of “bubbles” we were about to confront. However, the proctors, feigning concern, put our minds at ease as we spent thirty minutes becoming well acquainted with the answer document, darkening the circles to represent our name and other various personal information, so that one pencil was already out of commission before the test even commenced.

After much lollygagging, the test finally began and I felt a surge of accomplishment after finishing each portion. This feeling only lasted for the first few sections as I was then consumed with watching the other students who all seemed to be finishing before me. Was I going too slowly? Were they going to bomb it too and never get accepted to college?

Eventually, the last subject area was appropriately bubbled and I was relieved to be released to the parking lot, where I found my mom ready to rescue me from this Boston Marathon of academia.

“Well, how was it?” she asked in a chipper tone.

Apparently, the thirty year gap between when she was in my place and that day had allowed her to forget the four-hour torment. I couldn’t even compose a coherent sentence, as all of my dendrites seemed to have been temporarily incapacitated.

The calendar was circled as soon as we returned home, to signify the date on which the rest of my life would be determined. When that day finally arrived, I was devastated to realize that the scores were only being sent that day and I wouldn’t receive them for another week. While I was doing anything and everything to get my mind off the impending doom, my mom made a covert eight-dollar phone call to the omniscient ACT recording system. When she came up to my room and asked me if I wanted to know my score, she did not get her anticipated response.

“You called?” I fumed. “You spent eight dollars to find out my scores that would have come in the mail anyhow?”

However, being as thrifty as I am, I resolved that she might as well break it to me if the money had already been spent.

“No way. Seriously? You’re positive?” I responded, as I was informed that I would definitely have my choice of colleges in the fall. Never in my wildest dreams did I think my score would begin with anything other than a two.

As my mom finished pretending to have something in her eye, I said “thank you.” It was in this moment of sheer joy and overpowering sense of accomplishment that I recognized just how lucky I was to have my own personal cheerleader, no matter what the occasion. Even when my heart is beating at the tempo of a hummingbird, I can always count on a fresh bit of insight and encouragement — whether it is a peppermint, or a half-hidden tear of pride.

~Rachel Henry

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