Monday, August 20, 2012

The Laundry Basket

In honor of my friends who have sent/are sending kids off to college this year for the first time, I thought I'd re-post this little reminiscence...

It sat there in the corner of the bedroom I shared with my sister, looking innocent enough. It was just a bright yellow plastic laundry basket. The cut-outs that provided ventilation were shaped like tulips. It was empty at the beginning of the summer, but as the weeks progressed, items were added a few at a time until it was overflowing.

I’d be heading to college in the fall and that basket was collecting the things I’d need to live outside of my parents’ house for the first time in my life. There were towels -- MY towels. There was bedding --MY bedding. There was a bucket to transport my toiletries from my dorm room to the communal showers. That was rapidly filling, too. A filled bucket within a filled basket.

I spent that summer recklessly. I had a boyfriend of sorts, but it was casual. We both knew it was finite.  I went to parties and hung out with my girlfriends. We were all headed to different schools in the fall and – even while we were promising each other that it would be like this forever, we knew it wasn’t so.

That laundry basket was there to remind me.

I had a job that summer. I’d had a job since I was just shy of my sixteenth birthday. I saved a little, but most of what I earned went to clothes and albums and movies and concerts. I worked to support my habits, not to support myself.

I didn’t help much around the house. It wasn’t so much that I was lazy (although I was), it was just that not much was required of me. My mother was an excellent housekeeper and she took a great deal of pride in her home. I didn’t execute any of the household chores in a manner which was satisfactory to her, which caused both of us a great deal of frustration. By this summer – my last as a permanent resident of that house – we had both pretty much given up on me, at least in the domestic realm.

Our mutual long term hopes and plans for me were more in the academic realm.

My personal short term hopes and plans were more in the social realm.

So Mom cleaned the house and cooked the meals and did the laundry while I partied and played and worked just enough to finance it. I knew it wasn’t going to be this way forever. It wasn’t even going to be this way for long.

That laundry basket was there to remind me.

It was there to remind me that college wasn’t going to only be all about mixers and sororities and boys.  It wasn’t even going to be all about classes and studying and grades. It was going to be about being accountable. If I did well, that was on me. If I screwed up, well, that was on me, too.

As an incoming freshman, I was scheduled to have a meal plan, so someone was still going to cook for me. But no-one was going to clean for me. No-one was going to tell me when it was time to study. No-one was going to tell me that partying on a Wednesday night before an 8:00 am Thursday class was a bad idea.

No-one was going to do my laundry.

That laundry basket was there to remind me.

The summer wound to a close, more quickly than I ever could’ve imagined. It had been a wonderful summer and I’d lived it to the fullest. Sincere promises were made to keep in touch, amid hugs and tears. In most cases, those promises would be broken in less than a year.

The laundry basket moved from the corner of the bedroom to the trunk of my parents’ car.

It was a quiet ride. No-one had anything to say that hadn’t been said before. I understood what I needed to do to live independently, even if I was a little unclear as to how, specifically, I was going to actually do it.

The laundry basket moved from the trunk of my parents’ car to my dorm room. It was plopped rather unceremoniously onto the little dorm bed, along with a suitcase and a couple armloads of clothing. I’d brought an orange crate full of albums, but my roommate was bringing the stereo. She hadn’t arrived yet.

My parents, who I hadn’t had much time for the past summer, kissed me good bye, slipped me a couple bucks, and left.

I sat on a little corner of the bed and cried for a moment. That was a surprise! I’d been so excited about the prospect of not living in my parents’ house anymore. And now I didn’t. Right this minute, I didn’t. It was a lot scarier than I thought it would be. I pulled myself together and began to unpack and move in.

I hung the clothes in the closet and unpacked my suitcase. My roommate arrived and we set up her stereo and organized our albums.

I was left with the laundry basket.

I made my bed with the new bedding and hung my new towels neatly over the towel rack. I found a spot in my closet for the shower bucket.

There was a mixer that night to welcome incoming freshmen as part of our orientation. I decided to shower and change clothes for the occasion. I threw my dirty clothes in the laundry basket.

Who was going to wash them?

I was, that’s who.

That realization scared me. It terrified me. It made me ridiculously proud. That laundry basket was my responsibility. My life was my responsibility.

I was ready to handle it.

I was a grown-up.

That laundry basket was there to remind me.

1 comment:

Eva Gallant said...

That was excellent, Tammy!