In my last two columns, I discussed the practical preparation required when a first-born leaves home for college.
To recap, I learned it is always a disaster when a woman who cares about thread count shops with store-averse males. I also learned it’s not a good idea to buy a dorm-sized couch from a big retailer. Because the store will pack it beautifully. They will wedge it in the open hatchback of mom’s car, complete with complimentary hillbilly ropes and carpet scraps. Then, dad will get all logistical. He’ll decide to leave the couch that way for days, leaving mom no choice but to drive everywhere with an idiotic Jethro Bodine smile.
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And now, the final installment of a dramatic trilogy: College move-in day.
I will try to keep all emotions out of this report. For instance, I wouldn’t dare mention the Trader Joe’s incident the week before my son left. (I grabbed his favorite peanut butter, the crunchy salted unblanched kind with the blue label. Then I realized I had to put it back on the shelf. I stood there for a long time. Shhh.)
Just understand every feeling I experienced as a mother of a college-bound kid was eventually projected onto the dorm necessities list. Consider this list similar to the useless “focal point” a woman is encouraged to zoom in on while giving birth. “Just stare at that doorknob. It will get your mind off your labor pains.”
So in the final hours before D-Day, I did some panic solo shopping. Strange, but my anxiety could only be quelled by accumulating bedding. I went with it. My son now owns everything in aisles 12-17 of a certain store. Heavy blankets, light blankets, comforters, a million pillows … the works. I was shamelessly swiping my credit card the night before we left, which was also the same day I pulled a calf muscle.
Limp or not, I was going to be the most prepared mother in the history of dorm move-in day.
We caravanned to the university with a car and the Jethro-mobile. We landed at the dorm, all composed and ready. My guys moved the sofa and Egyptian cotton flotsam to the room in record time while I hobbled around doing a stock inventory of our bedding department.
Once we were all up in the new digs, we asked college boy whether he needed help setting up. This, people, was a crucial question. We had been warned by other parents that some kids tell you to scram right away. We were bracing for a possible, sudden goodbye. To our delight, our son requested help. So I rubbed my palms together to get started on his bare, extra-long twin bed. But. BUT: I COULDN’T FIND THE ALL-IMPORTANT, OVERPRICED, ANTI-BEDBUG, HYPOALLERGENIC MATTRESS ENCASEMENT.
Panic set in. The all-important, overpriced, anti-bedbug, hypoallergenic, mattress encasement was the first item I purchased when I went into focal point mode. This item, we were told, is more essential to the college student than textbooks, laptops, pizza, tuition payments and the organic chemistry syllabus. It was the foundation of my son’s higher education. We tore apart the room, but the thing was gone.
I promised I’d keep emotions out of this dispatch, but I have to say at that moment I was destroyed. What was wrong with me? What kind of mother — a Germ Cop, no less — loses track of the mattress encasement?
We had no choice but to go to the Beyond place — in the strip mall hell of a college town on move-in day. I repeat: We went shopping for a twin XL bed product in a college town ON MOVE-IN DAY. I limped into the store, trembling in fear they would be out of stock, but they weren’t. How Beyond-y of them.
Upon our return to the dorm, I showed our son how to get the bedding set up while my husband assembled a floor lamp. As I took the final spare pillow out of a bag, there it was — the ORIGINAL all-important, overpriced, anti-bedbug, hypoallergenic, mattress encasement.
I hadn’t lost my mind after all. Ahem.