This week, I moved my daughter – my only child – into her college dorm room. This is a “room” that I would more accurately describe as a “suite.” There are two bedrooms (with the expected amenities) and two full bathrooms for four girls. In addition, there is a living room (with a cable connected, flat screen TV, two chairs and a sofa) and a full kitchen. There is as much, if not quite possibly more, square footage in this space than I have in my new apartment. And I certainly didn’t have anything like this when I was in college.
There were a few times over the last week or so as we prepared for this move that I had flashbacks to times in my life that appear so vividly it’s hard to comprehend that they were so long ago. The first was last week in Target, as we shopped for linens and everything else needed to properly outfit a dorm suite. I passed strollers and cribs, and everything needed to outfit a baby’s room and thought, “weren’t we just here?” And then visions of my own journey into college life… College living – and move-in day – has come a long way in 35 years.
I attended a school in Philadelphia. A little over 2 hours from home. College dorm shopping consisted of purchasing only necessities. My friend and I stole milk crates from the back of supermarkets, and my father gave me a bucket he bought at the hardware store for my toiletries. Seriously. And then there was a sofa rescued from a friend’s neighbor’s garbage. It was all packed in my dad’s ’77 Impala station wagon. Once on campus the stuff was all hauled at least a quarter mile (in the days before someone realized that some sort of big container on wheels would be more efficient) and then up three flights of stairs.
There were big crates of LPs, rack stereo systems, typewriters, and ridiculously bulbous televisions with antennas. My daughter has a 13” MacBook Pro that weights 3.57 lbs and fits in her backpack that can do all of those things and replaces most books as well. But somehow the car, a Honda CRV with much more space than my dad’s wagon, was filled to capacity. Go figure.
My dorm room was a 10×20” cinderblock rectangle with a window, 2 beds, 2 desks, 2 dressers and 2 closets. If we were creative in the placement of that furniture there was room for the sofa. The bathroom was across the hall and shared with the other 30 or so girls that lived on our floor. Genders were separated by floors. From what I can tell from other parents’ Facebook posts, much of the college dorm experience is still this way. My daughter may have chosen a school solely based on living conditions.
Environment is important. So, I’ll give her that. She told her roommates she was neat. She may struggle to uphold that reputation. I didn’t cry when I said good-bye. As she reminded me, I’m only 30 minutes away. I did feel myself choking up a few times throughout the day…thinking about the enormity of the changes, thinking about how oblivious I was at that age to anything my parents must have been feeling. As much as things have changed, some things haven’t changed at all. Dropping your kid off at college, no matter how far, no matter how cushy the room might be, is still a big deal – the enormity of which they will only fully understand when they get to see it from our perspective in 30 years or so.