There are lots of benefits to living in a college town. First and foremost, there is always something going on -- a lecture, a film series. Maybe even a protest, if you're lucky. And since becoming a Madisonian, I, for the first time in my life, find myself interested in college football. There is nothing like living less than a mile away from Camp Randall to convert even the coldest sports-heart to fervent Buckyism. Quite usefully, I have never had a hard time finding a ridiculously overqualified babysitter. I am still in awe of the number of eager freshmen, multilingual international students and even Ph.D. candidates who, for years, were more than willing to change my kids' diapers for payment.
There are though, some drawbacks, too. For example, the moth eaten couches and broken-legged chairs that decorate the terraces in front of student rentals near my home do not, in my mind, represent tasteful "exterior" decorating. And the traffic on Monroe Street on football Saturdays sucks.
But I think the biggest downside to living in a college town may be the havoc it wrecks on my family's sense of timing, especially this time of year. You see, when you live in the shadow of the UW-Madison campus, this marks the week when you'll find yourself surrounded by college students taking the last of their final exams before packing up and taking off for break. If you listen carefully you can almost hear the strains of Alice Cooper's "School's out for Summer" seeping from their every pore. And everyone in my house, including me, feels we should be breaking free of our school routine, as well.
But unfortunately, I am not yet free from waking the kids up at 6:15 a.m., packing lunches and making sure no one misses the bus. And my offspring still have end-of-year ceremonies to attend, papers to write and medieval castles to build before the school-centricity can let up.
So this week begins my daily lectures about how longer days and wearing shorts and flip-flops to class does not translate in to a maternal stoppage of bedtime and homework nagging. And I will, on a nightly basis, need to remind my daughter that she cannot have a sleepover on a Monday, even if there's "just" a field trip the next day. I realize the whole family is longing to bike to the Memorial Union at 8:30 p.m. to get a Babcock ice cream cone. But that won't be happening today, or for any of the next 28 days.
This coming weekend when my kids hear the sound of the graduating class of 2014 "Jump(ing) Around" at Camp Randall through our (hopefully) open windows, I will take a deep breath and remind them that our time to jump for joy is coming.
But it won't be here for another four, long weeks. Perhaps the longest four weeks of the year when you live in a college town.