We dropped our daughter off at college last Sunday. I’d always heard that it would be like a flashback to my own college days. I guess you could call it that.
She is going to a much smaller place than I did. There was no mistaking where you were going at the University of Michigan. Or when you got there. Or the thousands of people around wherever you wanted to be.
This place is in a residential area not far from where I grew up. There is no real signage except on the freeway right below. The freeway that has been closed for construction for the summer and will be until November.
No problem, right? You grew up there. True enough. We found the school with no trouble. And a parking lot. Was it the right parking lot? It had to be – it was the only one near the dorm. Yep – one parking lot, one dorm. No rushing memories yet.
We went inside. While she registered, we sat on a sofa. There were a few other kids filling out paperwork. No pandemonium. No feeling of being lost in a crowd. Hmmmmm. I was channeling high school more than college.
But wait. Something did feel familiar. Ahhh – a large building in the late summer with no air conditioning. The strange mustiness of a building that has been unoccupied for several months and is now full of sweating people.
Paperwork done, we went to the third floor. Where she had to talk to another person. She got a checklist for the current room condition. Once she filled out the form, she could have her key. I just had to identify myself and get a key. One point for large bureaucracy.
We went down the hallway and found her room. The girl at the end of the hall said it was open. It was not. Luckily her roommate was on the other side of the closed door. As we waited at the door, I noticed the girls in the room across the hall watching us. Open doors, people watching. That’s familiar. A little creepy, but familiar.
The room looks a lot like the one I had. But smaller. Dorm rooms are not known for their spaciousness, but this was the smallest double I had seen at any school. I swear that the girls could lay on their beds, hold out their arms and touch each other. I thought private schools were supposed to be more luxurious than the public ones. I guess this is part of the reason hers isn’t particularly expensive.
The roommate did remind me of some of the girls I knew in the dorm. Very sweet. And very aware of the strategic advantages of being the first to the room. Her side of the room was totally decorated. She had two rugs which covered two-thirds of the room. (In her defense, I don’t think they make rugs for half a room that size.)
The closets are on her side of the room, next to each other. Next to her desk. She took the one that is closest to my daughter’s side. It’s more easily accessible. The sink is on my daughter’s side. She took all the jewelry hooks she needed.
Actually I understand all of that. Don’t appreciate it. But I understand. The girl has never shared space with a stranger before. She doesn’t realize that parents can turn feral in defense of their offspring.
But that wasn’t the strangest part. Trying to make conversation, I asked about pictures she had pinned up of a dog and a bunny. I knew the dog was her pet. What about the bunny? She said they owned a rabbit farm. Some rabbits were pets and some were for sale.
This one? He was for sale. You have a picture of a rabbit you ate? Yes. That’s strange. OK, he can be a pet. So you are a little sick putting up a picture of a meal-to-be or you think you can freak me out by telling me your family raises rabbits for sale. Either way, I’m glad I’m not your mother.
We finally brought the stuff up. In the hot, humid weather. They had handcarts, but most of the people didn’t bother to take them back down when they were done. So it was an obstacle course. Did I mention the hallways were also strangely narrow for a dorm?
Downstairs I held a door open for a couple of guys with a sofa. It was the second one they brought in. Some of the people in my dorm built lofts for their beds and used the room as social space. With the size of the rooms and the size of the sofas, I’m guessing these guys have a very intimate social circle.
Sweaty guys. Tired, frustrated parents. Embarrassed, nervous students. They were right. It was beginning to remind me of college.