I could call. But. But as Analise would tell you, talking to Alex on the phone is one of life’s most frustrating experiences. And it isn’t just what he says or, I mean, doesn’t say, it’s also the nine-month-pregnant pause he puts before any answer to any question. I guess it is a pregnant pause. He could just be dozing. Whatever it is, his sluggish responses give Analise and me the telephone equivalent of road rage. If he were a stranger or a telemarketer, we’d be screaming and shooting him the finger through the receiver.

If I do call him I imagine our conversation would go something like this:

Me, “Hi, honey.”

Alex, “Hey. What’s up?”

Me, “Same-o, same-o. So what’s going on with you?”

(Time passes. I sort laundry, brush my teeth, wash the dog, make bread, and scoop the litter box while I wait.)

Alex, “Nuttin’ much.”

Me, “What about your classes?”

(Times passes again, or maybe it is standing still. It is hard to say. My mind conjures up images of molasses, maybe cement drying, or riding to Georgia on a moped. I bake a cake from scratch.)

Alex, “Yep. Got’em.”

Me, “Ok. That’s great. So what are you taking?” Now at this point I realize I have asked for more information than his telephone vocabulary can handle, so I quickly reverse course.

Me, “I mean—what about friends?”

(I feel grateful for the opportunity to balance my checkbook, read War and Peace—something I have always wanted to do—and wash all the windows.)

Alex, “Yep. Got’em.”

Sometimes giving up actually feels good.

Me, “Well that is great. I am so proud of you and I love you.”

Alex, “Me, too. Bye.”

Now back to our story…

Alex Goes to College

Part 2 Living and Buying in Buckhead

Yes, Alex drove from my hometown in South Georgia to Atlanta. I have to tell you it was rough on me. Maybe I was overly twitchy from all the No-Doz I swallowed on the road from Houston, but riding shotgun to his driving was caffeine hell. Being a city boy, Alex has the same fear of two-lane highways that his daddy suffers from. Now granted playing chicken with a sixteen-wheel log truck coming at you doing about 70 miles an hour with nothing but a thin yellow stripe separating you takes some getting used to. But growing up I stared down those trucks on my banana bike. That’s how tough we were. (There was a time or two when the logs passed so close to my head that I swear I sucked in some pinesap.) By the time we got to a divided highway south of Columbus, Alex was so relieved he broke into a sprint and then a flat-out run. I told him that if the military police caught him speeding through Fort Benning they would water-board him, and then send him straight to Kabul with nothing but his toothbrush and a pair of whitey tighties. He said surfing had always interested him, and he could use a little vacation right about now. He had mad, crazed look in his eyes like he’d been on the trail a smidge too long.

We missed the turnoff to Aunt Florine’s in Atlanta, had to u-turn across six lanes of traffic in a monsoon. By the time we got there, I was praying my sweet, Baptist great-aunt had seen the light and started drinking. I could have used a bourbon or six, or, better yet, the whole bottle and a straw.

We finally made it to the Emory campus, looked around, and then got lost driving to our hotel in Buckhead. Things change in thirty years, mostly notably my ability to get from point A to point B, a fact that my children felt a need to emphasize. It took a GPS, three iPhones, and a map to traverse the three or four miles. We finally made it to the hotel and unloaded all of Alex’s musical instruments. I had my sunglasses on because I didn’t have the energy to switch to my regular glasses, and while I waited in line to check in some gentleman approached me gingerly and said, “Are you with a group.” I was a little insulted thinking he meant the group of tackily dressed businesswomen wearing ugly shoes in line ahead of me. I said, “No. No.” He said, “But all those instruments?” Darn. I can’t believe I was so slow on the uptake not to have said, “ Yes, we are the other Jonas Brother and Sister, but please give us a little privacy.”

That evening we took the hotel’s courtesy car to Pricci’s for Alex’s last meal and testament. Kevin, our driver and new friend, was a wealth of information about restaurants in Buckhead and had to heft to back it up. We celebrated in style, made friends with the waiter, too, and got back to our room in time to rent a movie. I recommended Away We Go because it had gotten good reviews and starred John Krazinski, one of our favorites. Now I have always been on the liberal side of what I allow my children to watch. For instance, violence never—especially superhero violence—ever bothered me. Alex watched “Power Rangers” and learned to wield a light saber at the age of four. And a couple of summers ago all of us were mesmerized by the first season of “Heroes,” especially the scene where the cheerleader throws herself off a grain elevator to prove she is indestructible. Or when the bad guy uses mental telepathy to blast a hole in a good guy’s head. But watching sex scenes with your teens is a little different, like in Juno. Well for those of you who haven’t seen Away We Go, the opening scene is worse than the one in Juno. I had to wear a hand towel over my face and hum out loud to get through it. The rest of the movie is just fine, or at least that is what the kids said. I fell asleep

On Wednesday, we dropped Alex at Emory for his diversity retreat, ran to Target to buy the things he forgot to pack, then Analise and I scooted over to Athens to take a look at the University of Georgia. It is on Analise’s list of colleges she is interested in, but I am pretty sure my husband would chain her to her bed rather than let her go, since it would violate some unspoken Texan code of ethics to let two kids go to college in Georgia.

Analise and I spent the next day and a half shopping for school clothes for her. She was in desperate need, since by some meteorological fluke all of her clothes had been sucked into a pile on the floor of her closet and she’d be a college freshman before it was all sorted out. The good news is that she and I are accomplished shoppers. And by that I don’t mean we are bargain hunters, I mean we can cover a lot of territory in a short period of time—Phipps Plaza and the umpteen dozen square miles of Lenox Square were just the challenge we were prepared for. We even found a tailor to do alterations.

Our one misstep was my fault. I had read about a restaurant at Phipps that really sounded good. Kevin drove us over late one afternoon after a day of speed-shopping. (We took time to empty our Neiman’s bags and stuff them under the beds just in case my husband showed up early.) The restaurant looked great from the outside, beautiful patio, great location, but neither Kevin nor the magazine prepared us for what we would find inside. Are you ready? As my very pretty sixteen-year-old daughter and I entered, we were greeted by young women wearing black bikinis. (I have never been to Hooter’s, but I have a new respect for those nice girls.) The entire place was bursting at the seams with button-down collared shirts and dress slacks. That’s right—nothing but middle-aged men staring right at us, looking for a little fun in the middle of the week. And here we were—fifty-year-old Heidi Fleiss and a protégé. Analise whispered, “Daddy is going to kill us.” Not if he doesn’t know. We casually walked through as if we were looking for someone large and intimidating and made a quick exit out the patio.

By the time my husband came in on Friday all our secrets were safely tucked away.

Up next… Part 3 Coca Cola Toasts and Goodbyes