Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Packing the house and heading for college

Here is another of the columns I wrote about my daughter when I worked for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. This was published September 12, 1985.


I spent this last weekend protecting my possessions from invaders from the east.

My daughter was home from college for the weekend. As she was preparing to leave, I discovered among the things she was planning to take back to school:

  •         A 5-foot shelf that had been holding some of my books in the library.
  •         The extension cord I keep permanently on the vacuum cleaner so I can vacuum the entire house without changing outlets.
  •         My wonderful white cuddly terry cloth bathrobe.
  •         The brand new can of spray starch.
  •         A large carpet scrap that had been hanging in the garage against the day we needed it to patch the carpet in the house.
  •         A large red plastic storage container into which I had tossed packages of photographs I planned to organize someday before I'm 80.
  •         The lotion in the large bottle I keep by my bed. (The bottle was still there - the lotion had been poured into her bottle.)

As I discovered these things, her invariable response was, “Well, you never use it anyway."

Apparently, if it was not on my body or in my hand at the particular moment she decided it would look good in her dorm room or on her body, it was fair game.

As we began negotiating over what was to be put back and what she could take, I realized this child is missing her calling. She should be in our State Department, heading up our negotiating teams. We would not only have the Soviet Union totally disarmed within days, we might end up owning it - or at least a good portion of it would be in her dorm room.

As I was telling some friends about this raid on my household, I discovered mine is an experience common to most parents of college-age children who live away from home.

One woman told how it happened to her. Seems the father of a friend of her son had pulled a horse trailer equipped with hanging rods into their driveway. Her son proceeded to empty the entire contents of his closet into the trailer. (Two chairs also disappeared from his room.)

When his mother asked why he was taking everything to school instead of splitting it into warm weather clothes and cold weather clothes, he patiently explained that taking it all was easier than deciding.

I told some other friends of this phenomenon, whereupon one told of how she knew her oldest son had really left home for good. He borrowed a friend's van and began to load it with things from her house.

His two younger brothers watched the operation in silence (she wasn't at home). To this day, the two younger brothers refer to it as The Rape of Fort Worth.

Another woman I talked with on the phone later that same day told me her daughter left for college on the East Coast three weeks ago. So far, she is missing two chairs, one small bookcase, three saucepans, four blouses and a pair of slacks.

"At least that's all I've discovered so far," she said. "I haven’t been up in the attic yet.”

She said she should have been prepared. When her son left the year before, he not only took almost everything in his room plus four lawn chairs, he also tried to sneak the family dog into his car.

She was really pleased when her son came home so often for weekends (He’s going to school in Texas). Then she discovered his frequent visits home were because he missed the dog.

"He said, 'Well, gee, Mom, I can always talk to you on the phone,” she said. "It keeps things in perspective for you. I'm not sure I like the perspective, but what are you going to do?

“One good thing is that he'll never get homesick. He has most of home in his room.

"When they come home for Thanksgiving this year, I may have to conduct body searches before I let them out of the house to go back to school," she said.

Since I know dorm rooms at my daughter's school are about the size they were when I was in college, I can’t imagine where she is putting all this stuff. All I can think of is the scene in Walt Disney's The Sword in the Stone when Merlin packs the entire contents of his house into one small carpet bag. He does this by magic, of course, being Merlin. As some spritely music plays, everything in the house - pots and pans, beds, chairs, cabinets, chests - marches into the bag, each item getting littler and littler until it all fits. This is the only possible explanation - magic.

Still, I’m amazed she was able to get it all in one small car. It was a feat of packing that would be envied by professionals. There was not one wasted square inch in that car. She even moved the vase with a dozen red roses that her boyfriend sent her for her birthday.

Now she has-announced she's coming home next weekend, too. I would be flattered at all these visits home except that I know why she's coming.

She can do the laundry for free here. It costs money at school.

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