jayellebee's Blog

March 4, 2010

Mom Gets Education

Filed under: Published Pieces — Joanne @ 11:02 pm

(Originally printed in the Contra Costa Times, “Time Out” feature, August 26, 2006)

Extra-long twin sheets are on sale.  That can only mean one thing — children tall enough to be mistaken for adults will be moving into college dorms soon.  Oh, and one other thing, too.  Mothers near and far will be experiencing a wide range of emotions.

I had a lot to learn the summer I helped my oldest of three sons prepare to fledge.  Dorms had gone coed, but neither PJs nor bathrobes were required.  Space allocated to mini-refrigerators, TVs and microwave ovens took priority over hampers and book shelves.  One could never have too many quarters or too few prepaid dining-common meals.

My son’s dorm at San Jose State University was across the street from the parking garage.  That was a good thing.  His room and our parking space were both on the third floors, and elevators were nonexistent.  That was a bad thing.

The roommate had moved in the day before my son.  Their tiny shared space already had a layer of fast-food wrappers on the floor by the time we arrived.  Skid-mark enhanced tighty-whities swung from the coat hook on the back of the door.

My husband and our college student spent hours bumping a dolly up and down multiple slights of stairs.  I unpacked clothing and made the bed.  Extra-large shirts, shorts and socks were folded into extra-small drawers.  As the fridge hummed to life, the roomie materialized — beer in hand.

I cried all the way home.  “The single greatest source of stress in my life just moved out,” I sobbed.  “I can’t believe how much I miss him already.”

Son number two had a panic attack the day before he left for Santa Clara University.  Sitting in the back seat, he still looked pale as we drove onto campus.  Then a coed with remarkably long legs and miraculously short shorts strolled past our gridlocked car.

My son’s cheeks took on a rosy glow.

A group of returning students helped unload cars at the curb.  They also took responsibility for transporting the heavy boxed necessities of campus life to each student’s room via the elevators.  That was a good thing.  This son’s room was on the eighth floor, and all valuables/breakables had to be delivered by us, via the stairs.  That was a bad thing.

Lugging two carrying cases loaded with CDs, I passed another mother cradling a delicate floral arrangement.  Ah, yes.  Another coed dorm.  To my amazement, this son’s room proved it was possible to down-size the limited space his brother had occupied at SJSU.

I cried intermittently and took numerous deep breaths on the way home.  “I’m going to miss him,” I said with a sigh.

The summer before my youngest son left for UC Santa Barbara, I thought I had the process down pat.  Boxes were packed, labeled and cross-referenced weeks in advance.  An emergency medical kit,  complete with “What to do if you feel ___”  instructions, was assembled.  Rolls of quarters co-mingled with laundry soap.

This young man had watched his brothers go off to college and survive.  If he had any apprehension, it didn’t show. He’d mastered the art of pushing my buttons and was ready for a new challenge.  We both agreed 300 miles between us sounded just about right.

As our SUV merged into dorm-bound traffic, we chuckled at the family who trailed a U-Haul.  Obvious first-times.  Half of everything they were delivering would never be used, the rest would be lost or traded.

Security guards pointed us to a drop-off area where cars could be unloaded, then moved to make way for others.  Mothers stood guard over mountains of boxes while students and fathers, imitated pack mules.

I surveyed the surrounding merchandise, discovering I could predict the owner’s gender by the number of shoes.  Reading the dorm handbook helped to pass time.  Page one announced surfboards would only be tolerated in the rooms if they were stored under the beds.  Jet skis would not be allowed under any circumstances.

This son’s dorm room was on the sixth floor with an ocean view.  That was a good thing.  The university-provided bed/loft/study nook came unassembled and without tools or  instructions.  That was a bad thing.

Our son declined any and all assistance in setting up his new digs and escorted us to our car.  One quick hug, a whispered “love ya,” and a sketched wave dispatched us north on 101.

I blinked away tears and rode in silence for the first ten miles.  “What time tomorrow does our flight for Maui depart?’ I asked.


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