Swenny and I met in college, at a university known for its leadership in teaching, service, and research. A top public university recognized for the beauty of its campus, the enthusiasm of its sports fans, and the drinking of its students. Alumni and students are known to boast about the university’s undisputed rank as the Number 1 Party School.
Where I was the first in my family to attend, Swenny followed a well-worn path forged by his grandparents, graduates of the Class of 1924. His parents graduated in 1962 and 1963, and we are members of the Classes of 1989 and 1990.
Our daughter is a fourth generation legacy there, now in her junior year. She is social, and, I understand, recognized in some circles for her annual Friendsgiving party and her recipe for wapatui. As the daughter of an alcoholic, though, her intake is modest in comparison to many classmates, tempered by her experiences growing up in a home where alcoholism had a place at the table, and lives on today in pictures, memories and relapses.
This fall, our son will join his sister there, making come true the dream Swenny and I have had that our children follow in our footsteps as Badgers. We have always wanted them to walk as students the expanse of the campus they first visited as infants, instinctively grab whoever is closest and sway along with thousands of others whenever Varsity is sung, and in lecture halls filled with hundreds of other students, find themselves.
Unlike his sister, our son’s attitude toward alcohol is abstinence, not moderation. Now at the age where friends are testing their limits, he is known to encourage his closest friends to remain sober, asking that together, they refrain from drinking.
In college, especially on the campus he will call home, my hope for him is that his earnestness isn’t mocked. I hope that somewhere among his classmates is at least one other student wanting to fill his red solo cup with soda, yet willing to hold back the hair of friends visiting the porcelain god after over serving themselves. Watching without judgment and at peace with the decision to go through college sober.