When I was a senior in high school, my mother was balancing a full-time job as an assistant principal, being a mother to me, my 14-year-old brother, and my 4-year-old and 3-year-old sisters — and being the wife of a man who didn’t help out a lot.
She is an amazing woman, my mother. But that’s a topic for another post.
The day I was supposed to move into my residence hall as an entering freshman coincided with the day she had to start school for the fall. She absolutely had to be at her school. I absolutely had to be at college.
So, she found a solution. She dropped me off a day early.
This was no little feat. She had to convince the college to let me arrive a day before the 200 other members of my freshman class arrived and to let me sleep in the dormitory before anyone else was there. And she had to let go of the pain and anguish it caused her to do this.
I had no idea, and I’m only realizing now as I write this, how difficult that had to be for her (note to self: Call Mom and thank her).
To me, it was a great adventure. We packed up the powder-blue Datsun station wagon with everything I’d been collecting for at least a year in advance of Going To College. I had my new electric, Smith-Corona typewriter from my grandparents, (the entire desk shuddered with each keystroke), a red West Bend Hot Pot for heating water for Top Ramen or hot cocoa or tea, a few stuffed animals (I was still barely 18), a poster for a bicycle race that I didn’t get to go to (but that Greg LeMond raced in), a new blue Swingline stapler, and a no-name plastic, battery-powered pencil sharpener from my brother. I had the stereo my stepfather blew my mind by giving me and the handful of records I’d acquired (an odd mix from Barry Manilow to Bartok).
Mrs. Hayes, the resident director, met us on the brick steps of the Mediterranean-style building erected around 1908, and invited us in. It was the most beautiful place I had ever lived. It felt like a villa – my own private villa. The living room featured a large fireplace, two long sofas and a grand piano. Above the fireplace hung a dark portrait of the gentleman whose name the hall bore. Off of the long wood-floor hallways, covered in carpet runners, were a small library and a sitting room. Down one of those hallways, turn right and enter into a trio of rooms, all singles. One of them mine.
Mrs. Hayes’ white hair was still “done” at the beauty shop, and she wore a plaid skirt, white blouse with a peter pan collar and cardigan sweater. About her was the faint whiff of cigarette smoke and coffee. She wore sensible shoes. As for her age, she could easily have been my mother’s mother.
Mrs. Hayes left us to get to business. My mother made my bed, with new twin-bed sheets (I had a double bed at home) and a lime-green corded bedspread. She arranged my stuffed animals and throw pillows. I unpacked a little.
I honestly don’t remember much more about that day. I’m not even sure I remember my mother leaving me. I was so excited to be at college, I was not the least bit afraid of being in the old residence hall alone (with no other student), and I was secure in knowing that my mother wasn’t dumping me off.
I hadn’t cried on my first day of kindergarten, and I didn’t cry on my first day of college. But I suspect my mother did.
Come to think about it, this post is about what an amazing woman my mother is.
What a moving tribute. I especially love the details—Smith-Corona typewriter, West Bend hot pot, Top Ramen, Greg Lemond, Swingline, your eclectic playlist—which truly bring back the feel of that era. Thanks for posting.
Poignant writing , and with good descriptive phrases in portions of this story.
Lovely story. Although it was not the point you were making, I was most struck by the fact that you were given a single room as a freshman. Amazing!