When we walked into Milton High School it was a sea of hoodies bearing college names. There were purses crammed with calculators and lip gloss and student ID’s. A fleet of Uggs shuffling up to three folding tables on a terribly cold February morning. Then there was my 7th grader. Clutching her passport, pencils, and paperwork. This was the day high schoolers took the ACT or “American College Testing” to gain entry into their university of choice. My over-achiever was taking a stab at it because she’d been singled out as an outstanding middle schooler by Duke University. She’d studied for months, taking tests online and in a booklet sent from Duke. She was ready, she wasn’t nervous, and unlike the teenagers around us, she felt no pressure. That’s not to say I didn’t feel some. Pressure? Pride? Can’t be sure. I had to walk her inside and get her checked in since she was younger than the average tester. We held hands on the way in but mine was dropped promptly upon seeing the older kids. We didn’t say much in the line. Didn’t make a production out of goodbye. She got in line with everyone else and gave me a glance over her shoulder. I turned and made it to the door when I couldn’t stop myself from walking back and whispering reassuringly in her ear, ‘I’ll be right here when you finish.” I got the brush off but then, I expected to. Her mind is mature. She’s able to tackle math problems that make me break out in a cold sweat. Her body is mature. Tall, confident, poised. But she’s still a 7th grader, four years away from when her peers will take this test. And I’m the one who wasn’t quite ready to grow up. She must have forgiven me though ’cause after the four hour test was over and we walked back to the car I asked how it went and she smiled and said ‘I answered everything.’ Then she took my hand.
We find out her score in three weeks.