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!



Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Haunted Dorm Room

Day one of American University's two-day orientation for new students and their parents passed without incident. My daughter Melissa joined her peers for ice breaker activities and tours of the Washington, DC campus, while my husband Bob and I sat in a conference room for the better part of eight hours, learning about financial aid, campus security, and how to cope with letting go of our "baby."

The evening offered Melissa the chance to join a number of different social activities, capped off with an overnight stay in a dorm room. Parents were also invited to stay in the dorms, however we chose to spend the night with our daughter Jessica, her husband Brian, and our baby grandson Miles who live a short distance away in Virginia.

Day two of American University's two-day orientation also happened to be Melissa's 19th birthday, which unfortunately didn't exactly start on a celebratory note. Seems there were some uninvited guests staying in her dorm room....some guests of the "supernatural" kind. And to make matters worse, the girl who was supposed to share the dorm with her never showed up, leaving my poor cherub alone in this strange, unfamiliar place, lying awake until 5 am, listening to the frightening sounds of rattling door knobs and heavy footsteps.

Yes, of all of the evening events to choose from, my daughter had decided to join a campus ghost tour.

During breakfast Melissa shared the spooky tales of a college campus infiltrated by restless spirits, which included:
 - The ghost of a star football quarterback murdered by the team mascot
-  The sound of religious hymns that emanated from the bowels of a campus building erected on the   site of an old church
-  An old playground where, late at night, echoes of young voices served a lasting imprint of children at play long, long ago.

But wait.

The most chilling tale was yet to come.

Seems that one of the residence halls on American's campus played host to a nasty ghost...and of course it just happened to be the floor of the residence hall where my darling spent the night.

My husband and I looked at each other with skepticism. Surely these stories must simply be tall tales, urban legands passed from generation to generation.  After all, wouldn't the murder of a college football star have caused a media sensation?

But Melissa insisted that the upper classmen who served as their orientation leaders spoke the truth!

Not wishing to argue with my baby on her birthday, we merely shrugged and went on with our breakfast.

Much like day one, we split from our daughter as the kids headed for more fun and the parents shuffled back to the conference room.

As luck would have it, later that day two of the upper classmen who served as orientation leaders spoke to the parents, providing us with insight into college life from a student's perspective. As their presentation neared its end and the parents had exhausted all of their questions, Bob bravely raised his hand, determined to bring up one more important topic!

"My daughter went on the ghost tour last night and she told us about the murder of the star quarterback....is any of that stuff true?" he demanded.

The two girls looked at Bob...then looked at each other...then burst out laughing!

"Oh no, she believed us," they laughed with delight! "We made everything up!"

Feeling a bit relieved that the place where my daughter would be spending the next four years did not play host to a grisley murder, Bob and I nevertheless felt bad that Melissa had spent the entire night absolutely convinced that her new home was haunted.

When Bob and I explained that the supernatural stories were, indeed, tall tales made up by orientation leaders with a warped sense of humor. Her response came as no surprise.

"THAT IS SO MEAN!"

Alas, at 19, Melissa has evolved into a smart, confident adult, yet in so many ways, she is still a naive teen. She is aware of, but not really sure what lies beyond the "safety bubble" of our small suburban New Jersey town. Admitedly, part of that bubble came at the hands of her overprotective mother, who now has no choice but to let her face ghostly spirits, and everything else that college life has in store...on her own.

However, I know that my strong, amazing daughter will tackle each challenge, overcome each hurdle in her own time, in her own way as she leaves her small town (and her parents) behind in favor of new adventures in Washington, DC.

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