March 2, 2006 -- La Canada Valley Sun


By Anita Susan Brenner

Our daughter's college invited us to their annual "parents' weekend."

Parents' weekends are wonderful events, designed to introduce moms and dads to fine educational institutions, complete with receptions, lectures, athletics, tours and discount coupons to the student store.

"What a lovely idea," I said.

My husband remained silent.

He has a right to remain silent. I think it's in the United States Constitution.

Last year, we spent the entire parents' weekend shopping. Rachel needed running shoes, a hair cut and a new shirt. She needed shelves for her dorm room. She needed new clothes hangers and bleach. Then she and her dad went to a reception while I took her car to Costco for new tires.

By golly, this year would be different. I would sign up for all the lectures. I would purchase graduation announcements at the student store. I would visit the art exhibit.

There was only one hitch. Our daughter had left a few months earlier for South America. She was on a quarter away "to study Spanish."

I still don't understand why she had to go to South America to study Spanish. I speak Spanish. My husband speaks Spanish. Grandmama Torres speaks Spanish. In fact, even Rachel speaks Spanish.

I called Rachel (via the Internet) to tell her the news.

"Guess what!" I said. "We're going to parents' weekend without you."

"Mom, that's creepy," said Rachel.

"I'll tell you what's creepy," I said. "Why are you in South America? Plus, we're going to take all your friends to dinner."

Rachel laughed and immediately sent the following e-mail to her friends:

"Re: Who Wants To Be Stalked By My Parents?

"Hey kids, I may have told some of you last quarter that my absence from campus this quarter would be no barrier to my parents' coming for parents' weekend. My parents are indeed coming next weekend and, per tradition, would like to take all you guys out to dinner Have fun with my parents, and don't let them keep you out all night .

"Love, Rachel

"PS. Feel free to order the lobster."

At the last minute, we decided to take the dog with us. The dog's name is Audrey Hepburn. A lot of people know our dog. I think people like her because of her name.

When we got to the college, the hotel gave us a doggie bed and the name of a groomer. We took the dog on walks. We used the student store discount coupon for an exciting new dog leash.

We ran into a lot of friends. Some of them were on the way to Costco. We told the other parents that our daughter was in South America, but that this was our dog. We missed all the lectures and only went to one of the receptions.

We took various girls and boys to dinner. Like Rachel, they will all graduate in June.

The girls were very nice. They told us about their plans for grad school, their fellowships for AIDS research and their applications to law school. I opened my purse and showed everyone the three new lipsticks that I borrowed from Rachel's room.

I demonstrated the count down clock on my cell phone. It now says, "29 days until Rachel comes home."

The boys were nice, too. My husband was happy. No one ordered lobster.

Copyright March 2, 2006, Anita Brenner, Los Angeles Times La Canada Valley Sun