I thought I knew my youngest child. I mean REALLY knew him. But then there it was. An e-mail request from our college son that had me a tad stumped and befuddled. Hubby and I were preparing to flap our wings to Virginia in a couple of days for Parent’s Weekend when the confusing e-mail was delivered to my Inbox. Before I get started, I have to say if you ever receive an invite from your kid’s college to a Parent’s Weekend, be sure to attend the festivities. Last week hubby and I attended our last, for the rest of our lives, as Ricky will graduate in May. It is a heck of a lotta fun. You get to model your favorite college T-shirts with all the other parents. But more important on the agenda is catching up, meeting your kid’s roommates, attending a football game, possible tailgating, nice dinners to spring for, and wallets all to be emptied in your kid’s general direction. Oh, and convert all your currency to one dollar bills. Makes you look oh, so much more generous. Anyway, before we flew up, Ricky wanted me to bring some of his stuff up when we came. The lad had several items on his list I absolutely had no problemo locating right away. I remember thinking this whole packing project was going to be a piece of chocolate cake. But I had not anticipated the request for the “semi-formal brown shoes.” Ricky had further explained in the e-mail, “You know the ones I mean. I wear them with jeans for going out.” Obviously, I was not up on the latest fashion trends. Semi-formal shoes with blue jeans? What hip designer came up with that one? Obviously it had to be some of the same ones that put all those poor runway girls in shoes the height of the Empire State Building so they can fall on their tushy. I musta stood in front of his closet for like 10 minutes trying to squeak out a decision. Okay, there were three possible pairs of shoes that Ricky could be talking about. The clue was they were all brown shoes. Hmm … should I pick the leather Dockers that Ricky called his “church shoes,” or go with the shiny Rockports, the “suit shoes?” They both looked rather semi-formal to me, but I never heard him officially call either one his “semi-formal shoes.” My immediate guess was he was learning some new descriptive language skills in the Poetry class he was takin’ this semester. His favorite poet was Emily Dickinson, so yep, that must explain it. I had a hard time understanding her too. The only other pair of remotely brown shoes, outside of his flip flops, was a pair of suede tennie runners. I immediately nixed that pair. No way a guy, no matter how fashion forward, was gonna call a pair of tennie runners with racing stripes “semi-formal.” And it was certainly not like I was gonna give up the quest and shove in all three pair in our suitcase. That was not even an option. Oh, we had the room. But the kid has ginormous size 13 piggies for Pete’s sake. Because of the new rule where the airlines add buckage for checked baggage, hubby and I agreed we would only lug around one. And three pairs of extra shoes the size of aircraft carriers would definitely put us over the 50 pound bag limit. I finally just gave up and left the guy an urgent voice message to call his mom. “Oh, they are the brown tennis shoes,” Ricky told me later that evening. His simple explanation made perfect sense. Still, I raised my eyebrows when he clued me into his perspective. The guy goes to a military college where all the students every day wear crisply starched white uniforms and black dress shoes. Slowly, the dense fog lifted around my head and I could see exactly where he was headed. For Ricky, a pair of tennie runners was certainly semi-formal. With the shoe mystery solved, I’ve taken my name off the list of confused mothers. That is … until the next e-mail from Ricky pops into my mailbox. Dixie Frantz is a Kingwood resident and newspaper columnist for the past 12 years. E-mail Dixie with your comments at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..