A week or so ago Jill and her roommates vacated the home away from home that they occupied during sophomore year. I somehow escaped that noose, because I'd been off about half of the month of July already and will be in Tuscaloosa for three days in August during Rush Week. However, I'm living smack dab in the middle of the overflow of abundance that represents her "stuff" that she must absolutely, positively have in her space to make it seem like home.
Yay me (not).
This explosion of "stuff" is a little foreign to me. I lived in the dorms all four years of college...and dorms...by design...didn't lend themselves to being crammed full of stuff that would be nice to have but wasn't absolutely necessary. My summers were a little more on the vagabond side...so if it didn't fit in the Comet or the Chevette...well, I didn't need it. For our freshman year, my roommate and I coordinated everything bedding-wise. We lasted through the first semester. After that...it was no long coordinated...it just had to be somewhat comfortable...and easily transportable.
Oh, times have changed. Now the bedding has a hypoallergenic cover on the mattress, a mattress pad, a featherbed cover, sheets, comforter and matching shams (regular and European), a dust ruffle, throw pillows, a body pillow, ergonomically correct pillows (for back, side, or stomach sleepers) and a coordinating throw at the bottom of the bed.
Last year, the girls had new furniture that actually matched, a rug, art, lamps, a full kitchen stocked with pots, pans, plates, cups, utensils, a KitchenAid standing mixer, cute signs, and a full functioning oven, stove, microwave, dishwasher, sink, pantry, and a linen closet. That is certainly a far cry from my hot pot and the toaster oven my suitemate owned.
The girls' bedrooms that looked as though it could have been photographed for Southern Living's College Edition (if such a thing existed.) One had an Audrey Hepburn inspired sophisticated chic room, another had a Hollister-like designer beach room, the third had bedding from Anthropologie (with a coordinated paint color on the walls) while Jill's room was about as Phi Mu pink as humanly possible with a lot of white thrown in to break it all up.
Each of the girls had her own bathroom in the house. A full bathroom...sink, toilet and tub/shower. They had cable TV, a DVR, a security system, and efficient heating and air conditioning. No laundromat either...they had a washer and dryer (new, of course) right upstairs.
The place where they lived was brand spanking new, was absolutely precious, and had a two acre pool just outside their door. The clubhouse was a few steps away. It had a golf simulation game and a movie theater in it.
Yeah, it made me want to go back to college. Seriously.
I believe that this place was conceived and underway before the economy turned sour. The rent price was reasonable, but its location several miles off campus meant that a lot of the kids moved out this year in search of a place within walking distance of class. I know that Jill's group did. Two are moving into the Phi Mu house, and the other two are living pretty close to campus. I like this in that we will have somewhere to park for the home games.
Roll Tide and all that.
Two years from now, though, these girls - and all of their friends who are living the college dream in relative comfort - will have to get out into the big world and see just how good they had it. I worry that we did them a great disservice by making the home away from home a little too much like home. Or even better than home in some ways. Hopefully not. Worst case scenario...they will end up in graduate school, with roommates, or back at home.
I'd really like to avoid that whole "back at home" part though. I miss her terribly while she is away...but I just don't think I'm up to a constant rendition of just how incredibly boring things are around here. Because we've been working really hard to perfect this whole "boring" thing, you know.
I got married six weeks after I graduated from college. My response to having to figure out where to live after graduation was to find a roommate in the form of a husband. Big Dave was an excellent choice. He's far neater than I am, and he likes to mow the grass and clean the pool. He's neater than I am, does dishes without whining, and irons for me some mornings. Other than his affinity for truly bad television and the fact that he's out like a light by 9 p.m...Big Dave totally rocks.
Today's kids think that they need to have time to be "young" before they get married, and perhaps some people do. Marriage isn't easy no matter how old or young you are. We are constantly evolving, you know. But in an attempt to make sure that young people have "found ourselves" before they take a trip down the aisle, we have allowed them to be irresponsible far longer than we thought ever thought we would. We may even feel a little guilty about that.
I think that the current economy is going to cause a lot of kids coming out of school to think about postponing marriage to sow some oats a little harder than in prior years, and maybe that's a good thing.
Or maybe not.
I just know that waiting to get married dramatically increases the chances that they will end up mired in debt...or back at home.
Today, I had a conversation with a father whose freshman son is beginning college this Fall at Alabama. Two years ago, we paid almost half of what he is paying for "board." Wow. That's quite the increase in two short years. Wonder what it will look like when Brian takes off next Fall. I'm thinking that his staying put for his first year is quite an excellent idea. He's a senior. Which seems quite impossible to me.
And I can't believe that Jill is beginning her junior year. It seems like yesterday that we were buying all of the coordinating bedding with her roommate her freshman year and wearing out the Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons. This week two years ago I was stressing out beyond belief because I had absolutely no idea what Rush at a big university might be like for her.
Luckily, it was an awesome experience. My nerves healed the day that I saw her being photographed with her gorgeous new sorority sisters on the steps of the Phi Mu house. Like healed instantly. I felt better knowing that she was not only my daughter...but my sister as well. (And yes, that does sound a little creepy, but you know what I mean.)
As parents, we can give them the relative comfort of campus living, the strong support of a loving family, and exposure to many different benefits that we might have been denied...but we can only do so much. What their experience turns out to be is of their own making...and within the fabric of God's plan. They actually have to study, to dream, and to prepare for that day that they walk across a stage in a cap and gown and they are unleashed upon the world to make their unique mark in it.
Thankfully, I still have some time to reflect on that.
So, I hope that they will all enjoy the return to campus for the Fall. Such an exciting time for the college kids...and for those of us with living rooms that look like a Salvation Army drop-off point or the Island of Misfit Items. I am looking forward to visiting my girl on Bid Day...and Game Day Saturdays this Fall. And you know what? I can't wait!