FryDaddy and I have just returned from a couple of days away. While this was partly a working trip (more on that later), it was also partly not. I am pleased to report that both portions seem to have been successful.
Let me elaborate.
FryDaddy is about four weeks away from finishing his first round of higher learnin'. He's thrown his weight into it and done extremely well. We've made jokes about the commuter marriage (especially the "we-got-married-and-now-he-lives-with-the-in-laws" part) and we've done well overall with that. So we're headed into Round 2. A bachelor's degree carries nearly no cachet these days and going further is required if you want to work on the other side of the desk. When the dust settled, it looked as if University A was going to be his landing place and we were both happy with that decision.
Then along came University X with a letter of acceptance and a full tuition scholarship. As monkey wrenches go, it was a very nice one. We looked over University X's Website and got as far as we could go virtually, then set up a campus tour and an information interview with the head of the graduate program in history. We decided to make it half vacation, so we booked a room in a nice hotel and a few days ago, up and over the mountain we went.
The weather was not conducive to forming a favorable impression. Thunderbolts and lightning, very, very frightening. Rain sluiced down so hard that I half-expected to see some fellow gathering animals by pairs. But we made it to the Carnegie Hotel and everything got a little bit better. The hotel was built by some railroad baron back in the 1890s and renovated in 2000 and seriously - it's a showstopper. Twelve foot ceilings, huge, double-sink bathroom with actual honeycomb tile, etc., etc. We also found out they have a special University X rate which makes it just a few bucks more than the cookie-cutter Comfort Inn, so there's that to keep in mind for later visits. They train their staff to provide a nearly ridiculous level of service and we loved every minute of it! (We even had cookies and milk delivered to the room our first night there. Real milk, not the skim stuff I usually drink.) Due to the storm, we ate dinner at the hotel restaurant and I wasn't sure about that. Hotel restaurants are often overpriced and under-impressive, but this one was worth the considerable coin we decided to spend. The food was magnificent and we both caught ourselves talking about "flavor profiles," something our at-home dinners don't usually inspire. Again, impeccable service. (The server-in-training was the one who delivered our nightly cookies and milk, too.)
Our tour of University X the next morning (the storm had passed, thank goodness) was impressive. Everyone - up to and including the woman who directed us to the stairs - was friendly, wanted to help and to ensure that we got what we needed. The campus was impressive in terms of facilities and layout (and really, aside from the face of a loved one, is anything much more lovely than a Southern campus in spring?). And whatever University X is paying their archivist, he deserves a raise. University X has a very impressive archive of all things Appalachian (oral history, music, diaries, family histories, etc.) and the archivist knows exactly where the contents are of everything. Plus - he's funny. (He claimed he grew up in a part of the state that was so far back in the woods that "even the Episcopalians handled snakes." Thank you. Tip your waitress.) The information interview may have sealed the deal - University X places nearly all students who want to go on to a Ph.D program in one - with funding, thank you very much - and they have faculty members who focus on several areas of great interest to FryDaddy that University A lacks. He'll do a thesis and have a tough committee to guarantee his writing reaches its full potential and (thank you!) there's money for conferences.
The decision isn't quite made yet, but University X is looking pretty darned good.
We had decided to extend our stay instead of rushing back down the mountain after the campus fact-finding was done and had decided to splurge, so we headed to the spa for our appointments. OK, I see the appeal. And that's all I'll say on that matter, aside from yay, spa! Dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant (and a side trip to an auto parts store - even nice folks there) then back to the hotel for a restful night before a leisurely trip back home today.
We're home now, better connected than we have been for the last few weeks. We had said "yes" to too many other people and "I'll get to you in a minute" to each other too often lately. A dent in the bank balance is a small price to pay for correcting that imbalance.
And you know what? Not a single student seems to have missed me all that much.