As Quan and I saw more of each other, I started to reconsider my decision to attend Elk River. It was so far away, and Quan had already committed to attending UCLA.
I did my best thinking while my hands were occupied with something else, and with the deadline to respond to college acceptance letters looming and me no closer to a decision between UCLA and Elk River, I needed all my brain power.
Our family piano stood against a wall in the eating area adjacent to the kitchen. My long fingers flew across the chipped ivory keys of our old family piano, tracing the familiar patterns of songs I had memorized over years of lessons. The music resounded through the whole house. I relaxed a bit as the wall of sound quieted my swirling worries. I tried to conjure up a picture of me walking through a college campus, hoping the details of my imagination would yield some clue to my heart’s desire.
“Giselle? Gigi! Earth to Giselle,” Mom called, repeating variations of my name at intervals until I responded. She knew that sometimes I tuned out the world when I sat at the piano, hearing only the notes and my own musings.
The smell of ground beef and cumin and the scrape of the spatula against the skillet told me she was at the stove, which stood at the opposite end of the kitchen.
Eventually, I stilled my fingers long enough to yell back. “What?”
“You don’t have to shout. I’m right here,” she said, popping her head around the corner. “Giselle, when you finish playing that song, I want you to get up and go work on your college response letters until dinner’s ready.” Her voice took on that wheedling tone she always used for nagging. “Don’t forget, it’s not too late to change your mind and go to a local school.”
“Thanks, Mom. You’re making this SO easy for me.”
“Watch your tone.”
I continued in a gentler voice. “I’m sorry. What I meant to say was, it seems like you’re second guessing my decision every chance you get. You holding the deadline over my head—”
“Being reminded of the deadline makes me feel—” she corrected.
I gritted my teeth and restarted the sentence. “Being reminded of the deadline makes me feel like you don’t trust me.” I turned back and played the opening bars of Für Elise again, hoping she’d leave me alone.
“I hear your feelings and acknowledge them.”
I hoped Mom would get off this psychobabble kick soon.
She put a hand on my shoulder. “Have you been praying about it? Has God really given you peace about attending Elk River?”
I met her eyes then quickly looked back at my hands, pretending to concentrate as I finished off the first movement.
“Sure, I’ve been praying.” Again with the guilt trip? I had been praying, but apparently not enough, because I certainly wasn’t at peace. “I guess I’m still waiting for the answer.”
She tousled my hair. “I’m proud of you. You’re becoming such a godly young woman. Remember what Scripture says, ‘Trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding.’ And your Confirmation verse, ‘Cast your cares on Him, for he cares for you.’ I know the Lord will answer your prayers at just the right time.”
“Yeah, okay. I hope so.” I got up from the piano. “I guess I’ll go work on those letters now.” Maybe I would go back to the drawing board and put all the options back on the table.
I went to the big oak desk in Daddy’s study and looked over the acceptance materials from each college one more time. Was I making the right decision? What did it mean to “lean not on my own understanding”?
I was seventh in my class. I didn’t want to go to an overcrowded Cal State that anyone with a pulse could get into. I also didn’t want to get into a lot of debt.
Elk River was far away, but Oma’s recent promise to pay for my tuition if I went there, along with the academic and legacy scholarships I qualified for, meant that it was by far the cheapest option, even less than the dreaded Cal State.
UCLA was more prestigious, closer to home, and Quan would be going there. But we’d only been dating a few weeks, and though I liked him quite a bit, there were a few things about him that got on my nerves. He was nice. Too nice. He was so supportive and sincere and eager. Like a persistent puppy who won’t stop licking your hand. Who knew how long we would last?
Still, UCLA was a big enough place that it probably wouldn’t matter if we did break up. We could easily never see each other again despite going to the same school. Quan shouldn’t be a factor.
Before I could think about it further, Mom called me for dinner.