Monday, April 4, 2011

The Apartment Hunt

My youngest son is about to graduate from college. How can this be when he is still only four and holding my hand because the re-issue of Snow White has become too scary (for me...the kid's fine). This is a column from a few years earlier about another milestone in the lives of many families...

I recently participated in yet another benchmark in the life of my son, Charlie--assisting him in finding a suitable apartment in a city far from home.

Relinquishing him to college was a monumental event but this has surpassed even that because now, in essence, he officially lives away from home. His neighborhood of record is no longer the street upon which he trick-or-treated. It will be the pavement of his new digs in a big city, many miles from mama.

We will have a different zip code--that boy whose nose I wiped and I, the mother who loved to wipe it.

As his junior year approached, Charlie made it very clear that he no longer enjoyed dorm life. But to his father and me, a dorm seems like the perfect set-up--roll out of bed, travel to central location still wearing pajamas, enjoy a buffet breakfast cooked by someone else, sit in a classroom for a while, raise hand, say things. Roll back to dorm and nap....then repeat until evening when dorm transforms into a huge party where people engage in lots of irrational laughing and then go to sleep.

What could be better?

Charlie disagreed, citing intense "dorm drama," excessive noise and lack of privacy as chief culprits in his discontent. He is a responsible, hard-working fellow so after some discussion, off we went to stumble about our nations Capitol, a city I do everything in my power to avoid during the summer months. While locals in D.C. were chirping about how incredibly cool it had been down there lately, I began sweating about ten miles north of the city while still in an air-conditioned car.

Tramping about between buildings all day did nothing to cool me down and I will, no doubt, be remembered by leasing agents all over Washington, D.C. as the sweaty woman who couldn't stop talking about how sweaty she was.

The apartments were all very nice. And the agents were patient and helpful...every single one a woman who, I'll bet, was a graduate of the school-of-hard-knocks and now had to deal, in large part, with kids from out of town whose rent would be paid by mommy and daddy.

We tried to represent this demographic with poise and dignity but despite their pleasant smiles, I doubt they bought it. We ultimately chose a sunny one-bedroom Charlie would share with a friend.

Downstairs, facing stacks of paperwork (we actually had to sign something stating that we were not terrorists. Smart thinking, Homeland Security), I found myself standing behind my son who suddenly looked not like the independent young man he's become but the little boy he used to be--the back of his neck damp and sweet and in need of his mother's kiss. This time, however, it was not a kiss he needed but a co-signer for his lease.

Afterward, we strolled to to the national mall and cooled off in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial where  flushed tourists snapped pictures of each other under the calm gaze of out 16th president. Both mother and son were very aware that a big step had been taken.

We'd each taken a step forward that day. He, moving steadily toward adulthood and I toward my very own "dorm experience." Only by the time I reach mine, it will be called assisted living and I will have to jot my room number on my hand in order to find my room at the end of my sculpting-with-jello class.

 Perhaps, I, too can wear pajamas all day and do lots of irrational laughing with my fellow residents. Until that day, I will, God willing, continue to watch my boys grow and change and become the men they are meant to be.

I can actually feel the irrational laughter starting already. Now, if only someone would point me towards the buffet......


  1. Now, I know how my parents felt when I told them I was getting my own apartment.........

  2. Your post reminded me of when our first born left the nest. Funny what mixed feelings I had.

  3. Mothers are the best and bravest people in the world, and the photo of Charlie surrounded by cats is beautiful xxx

  4. I can now see why my niece Lisa left her first dorm because of the non privacy issues and the partying issues and she was so tired not being able to get her work done. But here she is at Adelphi dorming again and swears she loves it. Its only been a few months so we shall see. Nan

  5. Michele,it's certainly tricky, isn't it?

  6. Janet--what a lovely thing to say. I fear I don't fall into that category since I have actually contemplated duct-taping the boys into a closet to keep them from leaving.

    And I love that pic of Charlie, too. The cat in the middle, Sweetheart, was raised by me immediately after he as born.The little grl on the left is still with us.

  7. Hi, Nan---glad your niece is enjoying her new dorm. It all depends on the people, the rules, etc.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  8. And dammit, you can also make me cry 3 minutes later. I'm so not ready for this. Can my kid stay 4 forever?

  9. If only, Alicia. But no matter what I did (adding chemicals to their drinking water, bricks on their heads), mine still grew up.