When my husband and I became parents, we had a pretty good idea of the fundamental responsibilities. We were expected to provide our child with unconditional love, food, shelter, clothing and other essentials (like cable and a cellphone).
Not included in the parental job description was a mention of “moving service.” I had overlooked the unspoken obligation of parents to help their young adult children relocate (and relocate and relocate) to college dormitories, apartments, fraternity/sorority houses and other abodes.
Now, however, we’ve helped our daughter move so many times, I’m waiting for Allied to call with a job offer as a logistics expert.
We weren’t so efficient in the beginning.
During the first move to a college dorm, our car was so tightly packed there was no room for passengers. The Clampetts had less stuff on their Beverly-Hills bound truck. Our load included seven stuffed animals, a cactus plant and enough cosmetics to supply a Broadway production of “Cats.”
My parents smiled at our amateurism and reminisced about the day I moved into 1616 Hewett Hall at Illinois State University.
"She took everything, including two winter coats, which she sent home a few weeks later,” said my stepdad. "The next year, we were smarter. We didn't take everything the initial trip and brought another load later."
"Yes," agreed my mom. "We didn't need to take the Christmas tree the first day..."
The lines were so long on move-in day at ISU in 1981 that my stepfather gave up waiting on the elevator and took the stairs. He twice climbed 16 flights of stairs, once carrying a mini refrigerator.
Luckily, my husband and I haven’t had to climb more than three flights at one time, but we have learned our lesson about prioritizing loads. We’ve created a special staging area in our garage for items waiting to be called into service or coming home to roost.
Depending on the time of year, the designated spot may be filled with an assortment of stuff including an electric blanket, dart board, muddy boots, cake decorating tools (when did she learn to bake?) and a full-body Halloween costume of what I think is a squirrel but she says is a Pokemon character. I didn’t ask questions when a collection of outdoor Tiki torches showed up nor did I comment when the standby supply of toilet paper and paper towels suddenly was gone.
The storage area has a few rules: No living things or food that will attract living things, and nothing which blocks the car parking space. (Or anything gross which causes me to go, “Ew, what is that?”)
This week, a co-worker named Peg described her daughter’s preparation for the move to Mississippi State University.
“She’s taking every piece of clothing she owns,” said the college freshman mom. “And we have more room decorations than there is space to display them.”
Peg says her daughter and roommate have color-coordinated every item, from the rug in front of the sink to dinner plates.
“My experience is most boys don’t care about curtains or even if the bed is made, but girls want everything to match and be stylish,” Peg said. Right down to the school-supplied desk chair.
Her daughter was horrified at the prospect of sitting on the world’s ugliest chair while studying so she purchased a rolling stool … with a white furry seat cover.
You never know what students deem important.
When a friend’s valedictorian son went off to college in another state, he packed all his sports gear and three sets of clothes.
“I know you had a 4.0 GPA in high school, but don’t you suppose you’ll need more than three pairs of underwear for the semester?” she asked.
Helping students pack their belongings can be an interesting experience. Just wait till they bring it — and who knows what else — home.