Thwarting a Queen’s slam dunk
One of my earliest memories is of my Dad – Ken Binks, Arts’48 – leaning over and whispering in my ear, “You’re going to be the queen of Queen’s.” Not only was he a Queen’s grad, but so were my maternal grandmother, Martha (Stewart) Holman, BA 1902, and my aunt, Mary Jane Binks, Law’69.
I saw myself as more of a Berkeley girl for I envied American students ripping up their campuses egged on by ‘60s-vintage rebels such as Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. While Queen’s wasn’t offering the revolution, it provided me with a beautiful campus, remarkable professors, wonderful friends, and a sense of community few universities can equal. One of my best memories to this day is walking down University Avenue in second year on a stunningly beautiful September afternoon waving at people I’d met in first year.
When my daughter, Julie Stewart-Binks was applying to universities, I drove her down to Kingston in November of her final high school year and informed her Queen’s was right for her. She never visited another university. She spent four fabulous years at Queen’s, graduating with Artsci/PHE’09, and so when my son, Ian, started the university application process in 2010, I figured he’d been listening to his sister and it was a slam-dunk.
Not so. When he started applying, he was making noises about going to the U of T for reasons only he knew. What the heck was this? I’d already been looking forward to visiting him at Queen’s in the fall and reliving my youth, and he was throwing a wrench into it.
I was horrified. Not only do we Queen’s people sing Oil Thighs well beyond our own “best before” dates, but many of us assume our kids will follow in our footsteps when it comes to university. A Queen’s pal of mine told me that she braved a trip on the 401, which she hates to navigate, to drive her son down to Queen’s because he was waffling on the university. After a campus tour given by volunteer guides, her son decided against Queen’s. She was heartbroken.
When Ian was accepted at Queen’s, I ran outside and yelled the news to the world. A lone dog walker nodded his approval.
My daughter and my dad both gave Ian a pep talk but he seemed unconvinced. In fact, the whole family’s rah-rahs were backfiring. Maybe I needed cooler heads (and I mean cooler) to intervene. I called up two grads – a cool computer-buff musician friend and a cool art teacher to work on him. No luck.
When it came time to send in his personal statement, due March 1, he just left it on a table. I forced him to write it the same night every other teenager in Toronto was celebrating Canada’s 2010 Olympic hockey win. I’d turned into Bette Davis in a horror movie.
When Ian was accepted at Queen’s, I ran outside and yelled the news to the world. A lone dog walker nodded his approval. My son seemed mildly pleased with himself because these days getting into university is sometimes even tougher than graduating. Still he was holding out for that darn U of T acceptance. I casually draped the Queen’s mitts I’d knitted on the couch, even though that might have looked a bit strange there in May. Every day, I’d say stuff like, “Hey, our neighbour John says congratulations on getting into Queen’s. He went there” or “The Tragically Hip went to Queen’s, the editor of the Globe and Mail ... blah blah.”
It was overkill, but short of stuffing a sock in my mouth, I couldn’t stop myself. At one point, my son told me, “I might consider it Mom if you’d just shut up about it.” I tried, but that entailed informing him each week I hadn’t mentioned it, further sabotaging my plans. I briefly plotted to throw out the U of T acceptance when it came, but I knew that was wrong. When it finally did it arrive, he was truly happy – I could see it in his eyes. And I secretly respected him for being strong enough to resist my campaign.
At the beginning of June we visited the U of T campus, and in a weird way, parts of it remind me of Queen’s – the beautiful old buildings, the dusty classrooms, the anticipation of the next four years. Geez, I envied him. As I breathed it all in and imagined the excitement he was feeling, I wondered if it had been Queen’s I’d really been yearning for – or just my own youth.