Freshmen come home; even their laundry welcome

Freshmen come home; even their laundry welcome

This column was originally published as part of my “From Where I Sit” series at in Towson Times.

They did laundry for two days.

My daughter had warned me of her pile of dirty clothes, but we hadn’t counted on the Gatorade explosion in her boyfriend’s luggage. Perhaps the last tug on the car top carrier squashed the plastic jug, launching the pesky lemon-lime powder. It nestled down into the garments and then baked during the seven-hour journey home from Tar Heel country to make a messy, if not fragrant, arrival.

But I didn’t care. I was so happy to see my daughter. She had finished that year, that treacherous, unpredictable, emotionally charged transition year: the freshman year of college.

I welcomed her boyfriend, her laptop, her eight pairs of jeans, eleven pairs of flip-flops and every bit of that mound of laundry. I welcomed everything that was near and dear to my daughter. She had made it through that freshman year.

I wanted to hug her world.

They say that by the time your child finishes the senior year of high school, you are ready for them to leave. They are ready to fly the coop and you are ready for them to spread their wings. Nerves fray during college visits, the application process, the proms and endless graduation celebrations. You often step on each other’s last nerve.

Then the countdown to campus departure begins. The clock and calendar become the heartbeat of your days as you meet deadlines, print checklists and try to figure out how a tiny subset of 18 years of living can fit into your car.

But it does. And the adventure begins for both parent and child.

They create a new world separate from yours that is filled with all the drama of high school with none of the curfews or house rules. In a fraction of the space of their room at home, they meet a stranger and live with them, unchaperoned. They eat, sleep, wash and brush to their own rhythm.

And, sometimes they do laundry.

You wince when you return home to that empty room and pray you have prepared your child for the journey ahead. You learn to connect with your child on his or her terms. Your computer’s “away message” notes your current whereabouts; instant messaging and cell phone “texting” provides your interactive link. You struggle with how much to be in touch – enough to show your child you care, but not too much to send the offspring into a homesick tailspin.

And then you do your laundry, and miss theirs.

Meanwhile, there are those roller coaster phone calls that electrify the connection between your worlds:

“I want to come home.” Oh, no.

“I really like my roommate.” Oh, yes.

“He broke up with me!’ Oh, no.

“I got an A on my paper!” Oh, yes.

“I dropped a class.” Oh, no.

“I met a cute boy.” Oh, yes.

“I am in the infirmary.” Oh, no.

“I finished my exams.” Oh, yes.

“Can I throw away what won’t fit in the car?” Oh, no.

“Cute boy and laundry are coming home with me.” Oh, my. Oh, yes!

And they re-enter your world with the remnants of theirs. They are the same, but yet so very different.

And your heart smiles at their growth and your growth, too.

And you do laundry.