Sunday, January 1, 2017

I Miss Her More When She's Home

On that fateful day when the doctor in the delivery room handed me a tiny, six pound baby girl, I could never have imagined coming face-to-face with anyone quite so beautiful, or loving someone quite so much.

As my husband Bob and I prepared to leave the hospital with our bundle of joy and officially enter the next phase of our lives, I wasn't sure we were quite ready to earn our new title: "parents". However, we didn't have a choice. Like two bumbling idiots, we figured out how to heat Melissa's bottle just right;  swaddle her in a blanket so she'd forget to cry; position her into that bizzarre contraption called a car seat; and change those oh so stinky diapers (surprisingly, Bob never got the knack of that one.)

College?

Ha!

We were trying to function on three hours of sleep, who could think about college?

Freshman year, financial aide, dorm rooms, meal plans, boring professors, midterms, finals, winter break....all figments of some distant place that existed a million years beyond my comprehension.

A million years at warp speed.

A million years on borrowed time.

Borrowed time where I denied that my daughter would some day enter her her senior year of high school.

Borrowed time where I dreaded graduation, and the inevitable moment two months later when that precious, 6 pound baby girl would leave the safety of her parent's arms for the unknowns of a college campus.

Yet all of the fear, the pain, and the longing I expected to feel when my baby left home surpringly did not come. Bob and I entered the next phase of our lives and adjusted quite well to our new title of: "empty nesters".

Did I miss my Melissa? Of course. But we talked or texted just about every day.

The semester brought new friends into Melissa's world, and a deep-rooted appreciation for college life at American University in her adopted city, Washington, D.C.

We watched her learn, grow, and mature as she welcomed each day with excitement far beyond anything we could provide at home.

Yes home, in all of it's ordinary glory. Where a cozy bed and a piping hot shower fill my cherub with joy.

Yes home, where mom does her laundry and the cat sleeps by her side.

Yes, home, where we'll talk for hours about school and friends and hopes and dreams.

Yes, home, where she is now during her four-week long winter break, a time that is both wonderful and cruel.

For these four short weeks, Bob and I happily discard the new empty nester role that suits us so surprisingly well. Our parent hats go back on as we embrace  borrowed time with our precious girl.

Because I know, all too soon, the cat will return to sleeping  in a bed devoid of his favorite human.

I know, all too soon, we'll be communicating via text, instead of side by side.

I know, all too soon, she'll go back to her life, and we'll go back to our's.

And I know.....I'll be ok.

Bur for now, I can't help but miss her, even though she's still home.


Melissa and me at the Strawberry Fields John Lennon memorial
during a winter break day trip to New York City.



Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Hanukkah Fairy

We all know of the famous Christmas tale that begins, “Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus.”  Well, my story takes somewhat of a different spin.  You see, nine years ago, I finally had to say to my then 10-year old daughter, “No, Melissa, there really isn’t a Hanukkah Fairy.”

It all began when my baby girl (now a freshman in college) still enjoyed the innocence of kindergarten.  As December approached, her classmates chattered endlessly with anticipation, wondering aloud what wonderful presents they would find under their tree Christmas morning, courtesy of their hero, the one and only Santa Claus.  From the perspective of a five-year old, not getting a present from Santa seemed so unfair.  It didn’t matter that her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends, sister Jessica, and of course, my husband Bob and I showered her with presents for the eight days of Hanukkah.  As one of only a few Jewish children in her class, all she knew was that her gifts did not come from Santa, and that, in her young mind, made her feel terribly left out.

Sooooo…in a “crazed mom” effort to ease my daughter’s pain….I sort of made up a teensy weensy little lie.   I told her she should feel lucky, because the Jewish people had the Hanukkah Fairy. 

Ok, I admit, I am not proud of my deception to my five-year old.  However, when her big brown eyes lit up, and her frown faded away, I simply had to perpetuate the myth.  What I didn’t count on were all of the questions.   “Where does the Hanukkah Fairy live?”  (At the mall.)  “How does she know what I want for Hanukkah?”  (I tell her when I go shopping, and she picks out the presents and gives them to me) 

The hardest questions were targeted to my husband, who desperately struggled to elaborate on a lie he didn’t invent! 

“Daddy, is the Hanukkah Fairy real?” she asked during a quiet moment when the two shared a car ride alone. 

“Uh, well, hmmm,” came his eloquent response, as he wiped the sweat off his forehead and secretly cursed me under his breath.   “The Hanukkah Fairy is real if you believe it’s real.”

The holiday came and went, and thanks to the Hanukkah Fairy, Melissa finally felt just as special as her friends who received gifts from Santa.

When the holiday season approached the following year, I naively thought my little girl would forget about the Hanukkah Fairy.  Alas, t’was not meant to be.  As Hanukkah inched closer, not only did Melissa wonder aloud about the many presents the Hanukkah Fairy would bring, but she told all of her friends about it, who in turn told their parents, who in turn asked me about this totally unfamiliar Hanukkah tradition.  I had to whisper out of earshot of my daughter and explain to my Jewish and Christian friends alike how and why I invented Melissa’s new-found favorite fairy.

As Melissa got older, Bob and I tried very hard to help her understand that, even though we celebrated a different holiday, we shared with everyone the spirit of faith and goodwill that for me, is the best part of the holiday season.  Each year, we would “adopt” a less fortunate family, and Melissa took delight in wheeling the shopping cart through the toy store, helping to pick out gifts for the kids.  On Christmas day, Melissa made cards out of construction paper and we delivered them to patients in the local hospital where I worked at the time.

We also tried to help her understand the story of Hanukkah.  It takes place in ancient times. When the King of Syria outlawed the Jewish religion, a Jewish rebellion broke out and although outnumbered, the Jews were able to drive the Syrians out of Jerusalem. During the fighting, the Holy Temple was destroyed.  However, amid the devastation, they found enough oil to burn in a lamp for only one day.  Yet, miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, giving them time to find a fresh supply. And that is why we light a candle for each of the holiday’s eight days.  

Hanukkah pays homage to everyone who has fought for the right to worship as they please, to celebrate their heritage, to share their own traditions with their children, and to be proud of who they are.  In short, Hanukkah celebrates freedom!

Today, at 19, Melissa has long since put aside the notion that presents arrive thanks to magical beings carrying baskets full of Barbies and Disney princesses.  While she still gratefully appreciates the gift cards and generous checks she is sure to receive this holiday season, for my teen, the holidays have evolved into something much more than an excuse to exchange presents.  It is an opportunity to help me create a festive holiday brunch complete with latkes (fried potatoe pancakes), bagels and creamcheese, and kugel (a staple at every Jewish holiday, this casserole can be made many different ways, but usually features noodles, eggs, milk, and cheese - I like to add appricot jam!);  to appreciate the memorable traditions that connect us to past generations; and to relish in the love of dear friends and family, both near and far.

Happy holidays to you from The Weinstein family…and The Hanukkah Fairy!

This post is a repeat of one of my favorites. In the spirit of the season I am happy to run it again, with some minor updates to the original.

I love getting feedback!  If you like my stories, please tell me in the comments section below!



Sunday, November 27, 2016

Coupon Savings with my Birthday Boy

As my husband Bob searched through the weekend circulars, his eyes lit up with delight. Seems our local supermarket offered quite the tantalizing deal. If you purchased a certain amount in gift cards, the supermarket would generously bestow upon you $20 to be used towards your next purchase.

But alas, the offer came with caveats, as most great offers do.

The gift cards had to be purchased on either Friday or Saturday, and the $20 could only be redeemed during the following week.

But wait, there was more.

The savvy shopper had to purchase at least $20 worth of groceries in addition to the gift cards, or else.....no deal.

But wait, there was still more.

A quick look at the fine print (using our "old folk" reading glasses of course) revealed yet one more pesky rule:

Limit one per person.

Bob and I were technically two people, yet the supermarket savings cards we each carried on our key chain featured an identical account number.

One account.

Two people.

Would we be able to beat the system and save $40 instead of $20?

(Cue the theme from "Mission Impossible")

Our weekend plans were set!

On Friday, we put our conniving scheme into action. We entered the supermarket and each took a cart. Bob placed $20 worth of groceries into his cart, while I did the same. Bob grabbed the required amount of gift cards, while I did the same.

With phase one of our plan complete, we nonchalantly meandered over to the checkout, Bob choosing register 5 while I stayed far away at register 12, lest our actions raise suspicion.

After paying, I thought the cashier would simply hand me a coupon for $20 - but nooooo -  the store had other plans. At the bottom of my receipt, in the tiniest of type (yes, reading glasses again) I discovered a numerical code. Seems I had to give this code to the cashier when I came back to redeem my $20 worth of free groceries.

But wait, the plot thickens.

Upon careful examination we discovered that Bob's receipt featured the identical numerical code.

Two people.

One code.

Would our carefully constructed plan backfire?

Two days later we found ourselves back at the supermarket, ready to put phase two of our mission into action. Once again we grabbed separate carts. Once again, we each filled said carts with $20+ worth of groceries. Once again, he chose register 5 while I strolled over to register 12, trying not to raise any alarms.

I gave the cashier the code, and with a sigh of relief, she subtracted $20 from my total.

The plan, thus far, had gone off without a hitch!

But our mission had not yet come to completion. Bob still lingered in line back at register 5. Would his code work? Would he get through the check out process without blowing our cover? Would he be questioned by the cashier...or worse yet, by the manager. Would he be denied his $20 in savings? Would he be escorted from the store, never to be welcomed again?

I waited at the other end of the supermarket, holding my breath. Bob completed his transaction and wheeled his cart in my direction. I followed him out of the store and into the parking lot, not daring to speak lest our secret plans were overheard.

Once safely tucked into the car, Bob pulled out his receipt to reveal to me that yes - indeed - his code had worked too! Together we had saved $40 on our grocery bill!

Mission accomplished.

As we drove home I came to the realization that my husband, who celebrates his milestone 60th birthday tomorrow, is a giant goober. And the kicker is, so am I.

We are two goobers who have been married for 22 years, together for 26. We are two goobers who raised two daughters, married off the oldest, welcomed a grandson, and sent the youngest to college. We are two goobers who are now empty nesters, whose life has come full circle - who are now, as we were in the beginning - living together with only each other for company.

We are two goobers who would rather spend a milestone birthday weekend plotting against the supermarket rather than celebrating with a wild night on the town.

And you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way.

Happy 60th birthday Bob. You are my love, my best friend, my everything, and most of all...my favorite goober.

I love you!

My birthday boy and me!

If you like my stories, please tell me in the comments section below.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Big Foot Lives Among Us!!
(One woman's quest for size 10 wide shoes)

BREAKING NEWS!

We interrupt this blog to bring you breaking news from the heart of New Jersey.  Ordinary citizens have reported frequent sighting of the horrifying, elusive creature known to many as "Big Foot" or "Sasquatch".  

Upon further investigation, scientists have new reason to believe that these sightings could truly indicate this frightening monster does, in fact, exist.

Mrs. Mary Whorple, 59, of Anytown, USA, described her encounter in great detail.  "I was comin out a the card store, ye see, cause last week was ma sister's birthday and I forgot to get er a card, and, well, y'know, she always send me a card on mah birthday so I really felt terrible, especially since her husband Larry, that no good louse, always forgets."

Announcer:  "Um, Mrs. Whorple, did you actually see Big Foot."

Mrs. Whorple"  "Oh yeah, ah did.  The monster was sitting on the curb right in front of that shoe store that's next to the card shop and it seems like it was....uh....it was..."

Announcer: "It was what Mrs. Whorple?"

Mrs. Whorple:  "Well it seemed to be cryin it did.  I felt kind a bad for the poor thing, but by the time I went over to see if ah could help - the thing had disappeared."

Yes, strange tales like these have been repeated again and again throughout New Jersey.  The sightings always seem to take place in front of a shoe store, although there have been reported incidents within the vicinity of department stores as well.

Scientist who have dedicated considerable resources to unearthing the identify of this terrifying creature, have finally been able to say, with utmost certainty, that Big Foot in none other than....

LISA WEINSTEIN

Yes.  T'is true.  Your's truly has been blessed with the world's largest feet.  For the majority of my adult existence, I fit quite comfortably into size 9 wide.  My quest for shoes often presented challenges, but somehow, some way, I managed to find the perfect pair.  That is until several months ago when I innocently entered a shoe store with a simple task in mind, find a comfy pair of sandals.  I located  a pair of size 9 wide from among the many boxes, slipped them on my feet and discovered to my horror..........................................................................................................  

THE SHOES WERE TIGHT!

In some cruel, twist of fate, the shoe gods decided that size 9 wide did not present enough of a challenge for me.  Somehow, the shoes gods felt I needed something to test my resolve, to strengthen my character, to make me break down in fits of hysteria in the middle of the store.

MY FEET HAD GROWN BIGGER!

I don't know how it happened, but I like to blame Zumba.  A few weeks after embracing my twice weekly classes of sizzling Latin dancing, I began to experience a throbbing, shooting pain that found its origin in the souls of my feet, then shot through to my two middle toes, making the simple act of walking an agonizing prospect.

The podiatrist hypothesized that my feet had suddenly become flat, perhaps as a result of toe tapping to the Latin beat.  He could offer no explanation, and suggested I take out a second mortgage to purchase $3,672 "SUPPORT" sneakers and wear them ALL THE TIME, at home, at work, at sleep, in the shower, while swimming, etc....

I lasted one whole day before the technically advanced sneakers landed in the back of my closet, never to torture my toes again.  

Thus began my quest for shoes that would bathe my tired toes in luxurious comfort.  Would I ever experience that pure feeling of bliss that comes when a pair of shoes becomes one with your feet?

Store #1

Me: "Do you carry these in a size 10 wide?"

Salesman:  "I'll have to go in the back and check ma'am.  Goes into back room.  "Hey Joe, get a load of this, some lady wants shoes in a size 10 wide.  Who does she think she is, Big Foot?  HAHAHAHAHA!."   Returns from the back room.  "I'm sorry ma'am, we are out of size 10 wide."

Store #2

Me: "Do you carry these in a size 10 wide?"

Saleslady:  "No, we don't but I can order them for you online."

Me (feeling somewhat hopeful)  "Really???"

Saleslady:  "Sure, no problem.  And if they don't fit you can return them here to the store."


ONE WEEK LATER

I came home to find a package waiting for me on the front door step.  My new shoes!!!  I ripped open the box to find a pair of black sandals staring back at me.  I crossed my fingers, praying to the shoes gods for the perfect fit.

I tentatively placed my right foot into what appeared to be an extremely comfortable pair of sandals.  Then followed suit with my left, only to discover.....LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING!

As promised, the shoe store did, indeed, accept the return, except for one small caveat - they refused to reimburse me for the shipping.  

Sigh.

Thus, since I determined the online option would not work on my feet or my pocketbook, I continued my quest.  After sobbing uncontrollably in front of countless shoe stores, I had almost come to the realization that I might have to wear the only comfy shoes I owned (fuzzy slippers) every where I went.  

Then, the shoe gods guided me to New York City.  While taking in the sights with my husband Bob and daughter Melissa, the shoe gods caused the skies to open up and the rain to come streaming down.  In search of shelter, my little family took comfort in......you guessed it, a shoe store!!!  Aerosoles, to be exact!

Once inside, the shoe gods guided me to the perfect sandals, available in a size 10 wide.

MY FEET HAD BECOME ONE WITH MY SHOES!

As the weather began to grow colder, I faced, once again the arduous task of searching for size 10 wide shoes.  But this time I took comfort in knowing I could visit the Aerosoles location a few miles from home.  

The shoe gods had other plans.

Instead of happily skipping into my local Aerosoles, I stared up at a luggage store in bewilderment. "Oh yes, this is wear Aerosoles used to be," explained the kind sales woman in response to my desperate plea for information.  "I think they went out of business."

BREAKING NEWS!

Several eye witnesses have reported a sighting of the elusive creature known as "Big Foot" or "Sasquatch" sitting on the curb in front of a luggage store in the heart of New Jersey.

Mrs. Agnes Smith, 76, explained her encounter in vivid detail:  "I tell ya I saw the darn thing and I swear I heard it....I heard it....

Announcer: "You heard it what Mrs. Smith"

Mrs. Smith:  "I heard it crying."

*This blog is a repeat of a post that originally ran in 2012. After a weekend of unsuccessful shoe shopping, I had the overwhelming desire to run it again. 

If you like my stories, please feel free to tell me in the comments below.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Selling Our Home

I sat on an old, uncomfortable folding chair in my husband Bob's home office, staring wistfully out the window at the inviting autumn sunshine. Our southern New Jersey community offered a host of Fall festivals and pumpkin picking, but Bob and I had other plans.

Wonderful plans!

Exciting plans!

Plans that would make the entire population of the United States seethe with envy.

We had the incredible good fortune of spending our entire October weekend going through the 9,756 bags of receipts, invoices, bank statements, medical records, exterminator bills from 1996, used napkins, gum wrappers, apple cores, and other fascinating specimens  that littered the floor of Bob's office.

Yes, we had embarked on the first step of what would become a year-long journey towards selling our home.

How hard could it be to sell? Sure, our house was built over 50 years ago. Sure, we lived on a busy road with heavy traffic. But still, how hard could it be?

Our single family home offered 3,000 square feet, an in-ground pool, five bedrooms, four baths, a family room with fire place, an eat-in kitchen, living room, dining room, two-car garage, and a huge yard. Surely everyone who set foot in this fantastic suburban "paradise" would immediately fall in love, just as Bob and I had done 12 years earlier.

Of course, to us, the house had always been much more than a real estate listing. Bare walls were transformed into a place that provided the warmth and shelter we needed to help our shy first-grader evolve into the confident, college freshman she has become today.

We knew, we planned, we told ourselves when Melissa went to college we would put the house on the market. After all, what did two people need with 3,000 square feet? We could stay in the area but downsize, saving on mortgage and utilities so that we could fulfill our dream of travelling the world allocate every penny for tuition.

The first step towards selling our new home? Purge.

Purge.

Purge.

And purge some more.

Bob's office was just the beginning.

We soon filled the township dump with Weinstein wares that had outworn their welcome. Broken lamps, abandoned stuffed animals, obsolete electronics, cracked bowls, mismatched tupperware...you get the idea.

Next step?

Paint.

Paint.

And paint some more.

Next step?

Hire a realtor who researched the selling price of "comps" (a real estate term to describe similar homes in the areas) and priced our house accordingly. Based on this amount, Bob and I foolishly anticipated a financial windfall to land in our lap within a few short weeks.

We prepped for our first open house with nervous anticipation. I cleaned the place from top to bottom and concluded, in our 12 year occupancy, it had never looked so good.

We vacated the house and left our realtor in charge, expecting to return three hours later with news of throngs of people vying for the chance to make an offer. (Cue the diabolical laughter.)

Our realtor, instead, shared feedback that went something like this:
"This house is way over-priced."
"It needs updating."
"I don't like the floor plan."
"The kitchen border is old fashioned."
"The bathroom fixtures are disgusting."
"This place isn't fit for a family of fleas."

I digested the opinions of these ignorant people with a heart full of denial. They were crazy, insane, full of crap. What did they know anyway?

The next open house came two weeks later, where we received feedback that went something like this:
"This house is way over-priced."
"It needs updating."
"I don't like the floor plan."
"The kitchen border is old fashioned."
"The bathroom fixtures are disgusting."
"This place isn't fit for a family of fleas."

Next step? Lower the price.

The next open house produced more feedback that went something like this:
"This house is way over-priced."
"It needs updating."
"I don't like the floor plan."
You get the idea.

Lower the price again.

Endure more negative feedback.

Install a new sink and toilet in the master bathroom.

Edure more negative feedback.

Lower the price again.

Endure more negative feedback.

Remove the wallpaper in the upstairs hall.

Endure more negative feedback.

Lower the price again.

Endure more negative feedback.

Remove the kitchen border and lower the price again, and again, and again, and again, and again.

Endure more negative feedback.

Change realtors.

Accept an offer of $20,000 less than the drastically reduced asking price.

Gasp in horror at the 424-page inspection report which concluded that the house we had lived in without incident for 12 years was not fit for human habitation.

Gasp in horror at the email from the buyer's realtor, which went something like this:
"Our official inspection indicated a 1/4 inch chip in the paint on the windowsill of the 4th bedroom, therefore we demand you give us an additional $3 million to cover the cost of repairs, in addition to your entire wardrobe, your car, your furniture, your cat, and the blood of your first born."

Enter the next step of the home selling proces...the fighting.

"I WOULD RATHER SIT IN THIS HOUSE UNTIL IT ROTS TO THE GROUND BEFORE GIVING THEM ONE MORE DIME!" came Bob's "calm" and "rational" response to the buyer's demands.

After so much time, money, and work, I feared the deal would fall through. What's more, we had put a deposit on a lovely town home in the same area...a town home I desperately wanted to own.

Much yelling ensued. Followed by my ultimate weapon...tears.

Finally, Bob threw up his hands in defeat, claiming he could not handle the stress of negotiations. He put the ball in my proverbial court, closed his ears and eyes and let me run with it to the end zone.

And run with it I did! We even got to keep our cat.

Aside from the some hiccups with our mortgage application for the new home (produce a signed, notorized affidavit providing the reason for the $10 deposit into your passbook savings account on April 23, 1975) the remainder of the process went according to plan.

So now we sit in the living room in our cozy new town house, surrounded by boxes, relieved that the home selling journey has come to an end, and looking forward to the next chapter in our lives.

Let the new adventures begin!

Melissa in the driveway of our new home!

If you like my stories please tell me in the comments section below. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Hallowed Ground

The tiny physician lounge on the first floor of a small community hospital in central New Jersey featured a few comfortable chairs, a conference table, cubicles offering computer access, and a large television set mounted on the back wall. The room, located across the hall from my public relations office, required a key code to enter, and only those who had earned their medical degree were granted access.

However, on that morning - that fateful morning - the room played host to a sea of humanity who did not carry the title of "doctor". With the normally locked door unceremoniously propped open, the lounge filled up with nurses, therapists, accountants, administrators, cafeteria workers, housekeepers, and me....all gazing in horror at the incomprehensible images on the television screen.

As the sickening, slow motion video of a jumbo jet deliberately slamming into the World Trade Center replayed over and over, the ticker crawl at the bottom of the screen informed the world that a plane had crashed in Somerset County.

Somerset County?

I lived in Somerset County!

Did the plane crash in my neighborhood? Near my home? Were my husband Bob and four-year old daughter Melissa in harm's way?

Before I had time to even process these thoughts, I read the ticker more closely.

Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Not Somerset County, New Jersey.

My relief, however, was short-lived. People died in that plane crash. In Washington, DC, the Pentagon erupted in flames. In New York City, the World Trade Center came tumbling down.

We were at war.

And the world would never be the same.

Nearly 15 years later, Bob and I turned our car off the highway and wound our way through the rolling hills of the rural, central Pennsylvania landscape enroute to the town of Shanksville, population 245.

The countryside seemed unchanged. Stuck in time.

It was not difficult to imagine this remote part of the world as it had been 15 years earlier.

As it had been on a glorious September morning.

As it had been before these rolling hills became a final resting place for 40 heroes.

A permanent memorial now sits  atop one of these rolling hills, bearing the names of ordinary men and women who decided to go out fighting, on their own terms, in their own way. Their acts of bravery forced the terrorists to bring the plane down in a lonely, deserted field in central Pennsylvania, rather than our nation's capital. The ultimate sacrifice of 40 unsuspecting heroes undoubtedly spared countless lives.

Bob and I walked silently through the Visitor's Center, where an exhibit gave a detailed account of the day's events. Thanks to evidence recovered from the passengers' calls to home as well as the black box recorder, officials were able to conclude, with near certainty, what had happened during the final few moments of Flight 93.

Fifteen years later, people come. Every day they come. They come from near and far. Hundreds of people winding their way through the small farming communities of Somerset County, PA.

They come to listen. To learn. To understand.

They come to gaze at a peaceful field once ablaze with an act of war.

They come to pay their respect.

For on September 11, 2001, the beautiful, rolling hills of Somerset County, PA, became hallowed ground.



Sunday, August 21, 2016

College Move In Day

Trips to the supermarket to buy food for my small family rarely come with surprises. I set myself on autopilot, throwing the same items into the cart, week after week after week.

Eggs for Bob.
Chicken for me.
Bananas for my 19-year old daughter Melissa.
And on and on it goes until the cart overflows with a host of routine items to feed my creatures of habit.

This week, like so many others, I picked up my cart and headed straight for the produce section to pick out bananas for my daughter's breakfast eating pleasure.

But wait.

I came to a stop.

Realizing with a jolt that I no longer needed to buy bananas.

Realizing with a jolt that the moment I had dreaded for the past 19 years had finally, brutally, become reality.

My baby, my cherub has officially become a college student.

Melissa now lives in a tiny dorm room on the campus of American University in Washington, DC, located about three hours from our south Jersey home. At least until winter break....some 3,974 years away (or so it seems.)

Melissa and I are so close.

We talk. We share. We laugh. We argue. We annoy each other.

But we are so close.

I simply could not envision our home without her steady presence.

Throughout the summer I had imagined that move-in day would come complete with enough heart-breaking tears to empty a tissue factory.

Alas, t'was not the case.

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your perspective) insane crowds and long lines coupled with "balmy" temperatures of 95+ degrees pushed any thoughts of an emotional farewell out of our minds.

Bob, Melissa, and I pulled up to the campus in a car bursting with books, decorations, laundry supplies, toiletries, photos, and what seemed like every article of clothing she has ever owned. In the car behind us my faithful and oh so patient step-daughter Jessica and her husband Brian transported Melissa's printer, storage containers, pillows, linens, towels, games, and their 12-month old baby - my grandson Miles.

We pulled up behind what seemed like a five mile line of cars, moving at approximately one inch per mile closer to their final destination - their child's residence hall. A kind volunteer informed us that we would most likely need to wait one to two hours in this car line from hell until we were able to unload the items that would transform Melissa's bare dorm room walls into her temporary home.

While Bob and I waited, the volunteer suggested we save some time by having Melissa walk over to the residence hall and register, advice she promptly heeded.

Lucky me! For the next hour and a half I had the fortunate opportunity to sit in the passenger seat of our car, inching along with a man  behind the wheel who desperately needed an overdose of valium.

"THIS IS REDICULOUS!" Bob exclaimed. "THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS!"

"It's ok Bob," I said in a lame attempt to soothe his nerves. "At least we are in the air conditioned car."

"HOW LONG DO WE HAVE TO WAIT?"

"We'll be there soon, sweetie."

"WE SHOULD GO PARK AND CARRY ALL OF HER STUFF ACROSS CAMPUS!"

"She has too much stuff Bob, we really just need to wait until we unload in front of the dorm."

"WHAT IS MELISSA DOING? SHE SHOULD COME BACK TO THE CAR WITH A CART AND UNLOAD HER STUFF!"

"There is a long line to register and a long line for the cart."

"WHAT IS THAT CAR IN FRONT OF US DOING? WHY ARE THEY STOPPED? WHY DID THEY TURN? HOW MUCH FARTHER DO WE HAVE TO GO? GO ASK SOMEONE! GO FIND OUT WHAT'S GOING ON"

One hour later as I tried my best to fight the urge to drug and restrain my husband, our car approached the elusive residence hall, where Melissa stood waiting for us. I unloaded her worldly posessions, only half of which fit into the cart. So, while Bob parked the car and Melissa took the cart to her room, I waited in the "balmy" weather, guarding the other half of her loot while hundreds of students and their harried looking parents weaved their own loot through the obstacle course of suitcases and carts that littered the narrow sidewalk.

Finally, we managed to get every last item out of both cars and into the wonderful air conditioned dorm room.

While Jessica and Brian attempted to stop the baby from grabbing at every electrical wire in the room, I helped Melissa unpack. Jessica, who lives a mere 30 minutes away, didn't stay long, promising to visit in a few day's time to take her sister shopping for items she might have forgotten.

Bob (who had regained his sanity) and I offered to take our cherub to dinner, but she wanted to decorate her walls, unpack, and get settled.  Caught between wanting to spend more time with my baby, and wanting to haul my aching, sweating body to the car and go home, I didn't object to her decision.

We exchanged hugs and said goodby, all of us feeling much too hot and tired to even consider getting emotional.

And that lack of emotion stayed with me through the overnight hours, and through most of the following day.

Until I got to the supermarket and realized I no longer needed to put bananas in the cart.

Until I realized she's no longer home.

Melissa, Bob, and me in her dorm room at American University.
Have a wonderful college experience Melissa! We love you!