“Mom! Where did you put the cups for my smoothie maker?!” my daughter, Anna, yelled from our basement last week while packing for her last year of college. An artsy fashion design major who considers orderliness boring, Anna was infamous in our family for losing things and accusing others of taking them.
To help Anna avoid the college moving day fiascos of years past, I had advised her to place her belongings in our dining room where they could be sorted, then taken out to the car. The plastic tubs she’d lugged up from our basement contained the jumble of things Anna felt were “key and essential” for the apartment she would share with three of her fashion design major girlfriends.
Many of the items thrown haphazardly into the tubs were a good sign. The laptop, printer and tangle of charging cords conjured visions of late nights studying to get good grades. The desk caddy packed to the gills with pencils, charcoals, scissors, brushes and tempura paint cakes would surely spur creativity. The mismatched plates, cups, bowls, cutlery, pots and pans were a comforting indication that Anna might not go broke buying takeout. Though I suspected that the toilet bowl brush might never see any action, I was pleased that, at the very least, Anna wanted the impression of cleanliness. The Keurig, while a bit extravagant for a college student, would enable Anna to rise early and get the worm.
However, other items gave me an uncomfortable pause.
I had suspected that the smoothie maker was merely a parent-appropriate way to describe a margarita blender. But the humongous four-gallon jar with a spigot affixed to the bottom was surely not for lemonade. Anna might be 21, but my eye still twitched when I saw the bottle of rum she packed between her bed linens.
Two large stuffed suitcases, three garbage bags bursting with hanging clothes and two sets of plastic drawers filled with accessories seemed excessive even for a fashion design major, and had me wondering why she needed anything other than comfy sweats for studying in the library. The bins filled to the top with makeup, nail polish, hair accessories and flat irons were enough to set up a small beauty salon. The strings of lights, electronic neon lips and tub full of costumes such as wigs, hats, flower leis, leather pants, feather boas, hip-high cowboy boots and a metallic spandex catsuit made me wonder if Anna was going into the nightclub business.
Somehow we forced it all into the car, and drove the six hours to her new apartment at Syracuse University. I helped Anna hump the boxes, bins and suitcases up to the seventh floor apartment where she would spend her senior year, but after two trips up together, Anna took pity on her middle-aged mom and ordered me to unpack while she brought the rest up alone.
I stationed myself in her bedroom, where I set about hanging up the clothing and accessories from the suitcases and garbage bags. The shoes Anna chose to bring were definitely not conducive to walking to class — lime green alligator pumps, orange booties with lucite heels, silver metallic combat boots, and snakeskin high heels with straps that wrapped up to the knee. And other than a few sorority sweatshirts, the garments included an inordinate number of clubbing outfits — holographic pants, a pleather crop top, a faux snakeskin vest, an animal print miniskirt and many dresses fashioned out of less than a yard of fabric.
After unpacking Anna’s belongings, we made the obligatory annual trip to the nearest Target for “just a few things” to fill the gaps. Conveniently, Anna had made a list of the most “necessary” supplies: Sweet potato gnocchi, cashew pesto, goat cheese crumbles, arugula, Greek yogurt, quinoa, garbanzo beans, Kind bars, gluten-free bread, almond milk, a 48 pack of coffee pods and a twelve-pack of spiked seltzer.
Target didn’t have the goat cheese crumbles on Anna’s list, but as I made the six-hour drive back home, I suspected that my daughter’s resourcefulness would ensure that she would survive her senior year of college just fine.