Monday, August 31, 2009

Back to School: or, the Journey of Emily and Paul As They Deal with Road Jerks, Interstates, Ancient Elevators, and Stinky Refrigerators

My daughter has turned 19! On her birth day, my wife’s water broke at about 4:30 AM, and Emily arrived at 11:53 PM. I’m tempted to say “it was a long day,” but the day was obviously longer for my wife than for me, who sat by supportively but in no intense physical pain.

Of course I’m thinking, “How quickly 19 years have gone by!” So many family adventures, times of growing, times of stress, and many moments of sticking together as a little team.

Last weekend Emily and I drove to her college where she’ll start her sophomore year. Last year we lived three hours away, but we’re now fourteen hours away. My wife has helped Emily move before, but this weekend she had to work, so Emily and I made the drive in two days, a large portion on Interstate 70.

The trip had some added costs. On two past occasions, my snoring disturbed Emily, in spite of the noise from the motel air conditioning and a little sound-machine that has pre-recorded, soothing sounds. So I reserved two separate motel rooms for us. Better that, than risk both of us becoming sleepy on the road--and angry in the middle of the night.

We had a safe drive, except for a few “dumb asses” who followed too closely, prevented safe merging, etc. I’m sure there were more dumb asses than a few.

Cell phones added tremendously to our peace of mind. I remember when my parents helped me move to Connecticut in the 70s. Mom and I in one car both wanted to stop for the night, but honking and blinking headlights couldn’t get Dad’s attention in the other car. Emily and I could just ring each other and know where to stop for a meal or gas.

The I-70 trip is quite familiar to me, thanks to years-ago trips between Connecticut (where I did my masters degree) and my parents' home in southern Illinois. I noticed a few places from those student days. East of Columbus, a non-chain motel where I’d spent a night nearly thirty years ago still operated. At another exit, I saw a chain motel where I'd spent a night during another trip home, and had shopped barefoot at the nearby Kroger store.

Both Emily’s car and my van were full of her belongings. She noted with chagrin that guys have so much fewer things to move than girls. I was the exception to that rule, because I always had to lug my favorite books and LPs to school. We were pleased that her dorm room has a huge closet.

Emily lives on the fourth floor of her building. Arriving early on moving day, we commandeered two reserved spaces that were convenient. Do any schools have handy and adequate parking? We worked four hours to get stuff to her room. We and the other families had to go down one first-floor hallway, turn right down another hallway, take the elevator (with doors that you open and close by hand) to the third floor, and then walk down another hallway and carry stuff up to the fourth floor. She stopped carrying and started sorting, while I did the rest of the lugging.

Chatting with other parents was fun. One mother and I talked about the absurd $50 fee that the college had charged last year for dorm-room clean-up. The mother said she’d mopped and dusted her daughter’s room but the college still claimed it was dirty. I recall that my college levied similar, foolish little fees for various reasons; I imagine most schools do.

Emily has a terrific room with a nice view. After we got her stuff into the room, we went off and had lunch, then we went to Wal-Mart for additional supplies. We’d accidentally left a slice of cheesecake (in a plastic container) inside her old refrigerator, and there it had ripened for over three months while the fridge was stored. I’d hoped that a couple days in the van with a bowl of baking soda might kill the horrible smell, but no such luck. So she and I found a new 1.7 cu. ft. model at a good price. I worried about the parents who, I noticed, were trying to lug 4 cu. ft. models up those stairs.

We took a tour of some new facilities at her college and felt great about her program. At the end of the day, she and I went to supper at Denny’s, then returned to her school. We both were sore and tired. We exchanged big hugs and good feelings about a positive sophomore year. I went back to the motel room to shower, rest and sleep before making my solo two-day trip home.

No moral or grand point to this story. Just another small adventure in our family, like similar adventures happening in many families around the country here in late summertime.

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