thank you. we brought you our firstborn beloved daughter, millie marshall, in august. and you are returning her to us a far better young woman. well, really i could stop there. but as ANYONE who knows me would tell you... i won't be stopping there. i will be excessively wordy and effusive in my praise. so hang on. it's going to be a grammatically incorrect, long, and perhaps a bumpy ride...
you made us a lot of promises when we first looked at belmont. and on our subsequent visits to your campus. then again in the summer at traditions weekend. and then once again when we handed our beloved first born to you in the fall...
and i have to say without restraint (because God know i have NO RESTRAINT in me) that you have delivered on those promises. every. single. one.
we thought you might be slightly exaggerating about the "engaged learning" stuff. but you were VERY serious. the professors are proactive about engaging the students in discussions. those promised small classes where students really get to know their professors? that is not a rumor. that is not something that happens only sometimes. that happens almost every time. millie has met with professors to talk about class, grades, how to bring up a grade (amen), or what they thought she should take the next semester. she has talked to them as she saw them on campus. or hanging out in parks. they have been real. approachable. caring. wise. funny. and kind.
i was only slightly skeptical that maybe you weren't as "academically challenging" as you thought. (i did go to furman university. my grades show that it was exceedingly academically challenging. or maybe i was just not attending EVERY class EVERY day with the best of intentions.) but in ONE year my girl has read some of the weightiest and thoughtiest (ok, not a real word so don't look it up) essays and books AND SHE HAS UNDERSTOOD THEM. she has written more than she ever thought possible. more than anyone thought was humanly possible. AND GOTTEN DARN GOOD AT IT. she has eaten, slept, and maybe even showered (?) in the library for days. only to be confused when she saw the green trees and grass upon emerging from the stacks. i think she might have spent more time with lila d. bunch than with her roommate.
you have required her to think deeply about things. not to just choose the best answer from a multiple choice standpoint or true/false bubble in the answers. but it has been vital for her to FORMULATE, POSTULATE, and DEFEND her answers. to think critically. to think objectively. subjectively. creatively. the think carefully. because you are showing her that how she thinks matters...
she has made friends from every state in the USA. ok, not EVERY state. but a whole lot of them. from california. new jersey, ohio, pennsylvania, chicago (which i am fully aware isn't a state. but spelling illinois is hard.) she has cooked boiled peanuts for her friends because she was the only one who had ever heard of such a thing. HOW HAVE THEY LIVED?!?!? her world has grown larger than tallahassee, florida. her world has grown larger than her own needs, wants, desires.
you said that belmont was a place where she could "explore her passions" and by golly she has fulfilled that requirement. gladly. by attending every musical concert in a 30 mile radius. (not country. pop. or anything mainstream. concerts by bands with strange names like "diarrhea planet." sigh.) many of these were "home shows" or special appearances in a record store or other venue. most were less than $10. she has heard a HUGE variety of music on and off campus. she has enjoyed lectures by donald miller (okay, she didn't LOVE those. but i loved hearing about them.) and even woke up at 6:30 IN THE MORNING to attend a lecture by one of her heroes, malcolm gladwell. and had him autograph a book for her gladwellian super fan mother. SHE EVEN ATTENDED A FEW BASKETBALL GAMES. i don't know how you managed to make that appealing to her. but you did. oh belmont, you are amazing.
she has fallen in love with philosophy. totally. freakingly. in. love. she will be taking her third philosophy class in the fall. when she came home for winter break, immediately headed for the book store, and hit up the classics section. buying books that her professor had mentioned as his favorites. WHAT?!??!!? over the break? reading unassigned classical literature? WHAT HAST THOU DONE TO HER ADLED BRAIN??!?
there seems to be a brand spankin' new appreciation for all the meals she turned her nose up here at home. she actually texts me about food that i make that she dreams about. she uses the word "caf" as an expletive. which is normal for a college student. and A TRUE VICTORY FOR MOMS WHO COOK DINNER! she finally realizes the importance of fruit in a healthy diet. i won't expound on that discovery.
now she likes to walk every where. a true "city girl" where a 20-30 minute walk is nothing. that's just a trip to grimey's record store. or to that adorable popsicle place. or jenni's ice cream. she spends time with friends laying around on blankets in parks. eats strange items from food trucks. and hasn't visited a mall in ages. shops locally. buys "used" clothing when necessary. however i will add the caveat that her bongo java tab might have clothed an entire debutant season for several socialites. but she has managed her limited funds well. (except for a little obsession with vinyl. hence all the trips to grimey's.) and lived her last month on about $25. don't you just love the end of the school year? she is ready, willing, and able to work a summer job and even secured one when she was home for winter break. all on her own initiative. and a desire to be able to procure more vinyl.
she loves the winter. seriously, she loves layering clothes. we realized she was bound for a northern (to us) school when we visited university of florida on a SWELTERING february day and she said that she wouldn't attend a college where all her lovely sweaters would never be worn. and she has worn those sweaters. layered over thermals. and under a jacket. and under another coat. with a scarf. and hat. and gloves. and learned that blowing bubbles in negative temperatures is thrilling. and cheap entertainment.
she survived a romantic break-up mid year. and carried on valiantly. to date anew. and then anew again. it was fun to live vicariously through this new territory of being "taken out to dinner" or to the movies. the thrill of the chase. in a time when many boys don't make the effort, the belmont boys have wooed her kindly and respectfully. and we appreciate that. as parents. who aren't afraid to threaten to kill anyone who doesn't do right by our baby girl. my husband says he is more than willing to go back to prison... again.
we have totally appreciated the number of times she has complained about the SUPER DUPER STRICT dorm policies. "oh, that is so sad that you can't have guys in the dorm after 11. that is just really cramping your fun group movie watching isn't it?" (hee hee hee) she never heard the "hee hee hee" part. but it was there on our end. thank you for sticking to this belmont. and for your sound reasoning behind the rules... for their best chance at doing well. for their success. and the success of everyone around them as well.
one of the biggest changes i have just begun to realize is that she doesn't tell us everything RIGHT AWAY. she lets things have a few days to settle. she thinks about her response. she makes her own decisions. she wrestles in her mind and heart. and then she shares the experience. the thoughts. the decisions with us. which at first seemed strange. I WANT TO KNOW IT ALL NOW. but she is living HER life. living with the consequences of HER decisions. and we are certainly a part of that. and she asks for advice. or our wisdom. often. but she is working things out on her own first. she is growing up. becoming responsible. becoming an adult. i know there will be things she decides that we would have counseled her in a different way... but that is a part of sending her out into the world as her own self. that is our ultimate goal. not a little us sent into the world to do our bidding (but dang, that sounds nice sometimes.) but a unique individual created by God to to do things that we never even dreamed of... different things than we dreamed of. in different ways. her ways. and hopefully His ways. and you are helping her to begin to do that. in so many ways.
and now finally there has been a solemn rite of passage as she has experienced a dear friend's recent diagnosis with a serious lifelong disease. she spent the night in that friend's room several times when she was nauseous from the medication and has loved that friend well. sacrificing her own needs and desires to be there when she needed to be there. she has learned to be a good friend and to love someone well. there are no greater lessons to be learned than those lessons. how to lay down your life and your plans for someone else...
so thank you belmont. for being more than we asked or imagined. for taking our little girl and in one year transforming her into someone that we are more proud of than ever... herself. older, wiser, gentler, more kind, more appreciative, disciplined, courageous, and ready to take a break for the summer and then head back once again into the breach... this time with one of her cousins in tow. the pichard family was so impressed with belmont (and her as their tour guide) that they decided on belmont also for their son! we have had nothing but high praise for y'all all year and are hoping for many more tallahassee students to be headed your way.
including another marshall! millie's brother, maxx will be a high school senior next year and she is already texting him almost weekly about the GREAT bands she is seeing and other belmont propaganda to convince him to join her up in nashville. we couldn't be happier...
lea marshall (and adam too, but he doesn't write long letters. someone has to work to pay for their daughter's wonderful college experiences.)