My son moved into his first apartment a few weeks ago and I had the great privilege of helping him set it up. I thought it would be fun to watch him take this giant leap towards actual adulthood.
I remember doing that myself, back in the early 90s. I collected cast-off furniture from wherever I could find it, got an oversized desk from the college surplus, and built shelves out of cinder blocks and 2x6s like everyone else I knew. I was in law school, and I had to do it myself, more or less.
Jacob is an undergrad and while not helpless, he’s not exactly looking reality in the eye either. We went to target. He was eyeing $300.00 Kitchen Aid mixers. I was pointing him towards $10.00 brooms. “I didn’t bring any towels from home,” he said, walking towards the aisle of new, fluffy terry cloth.
“Why not?” I asked him, thinking of the piles and piles of towels we had, since both he and his sister had to bring two weeks’ worth to camp each summer.
“Because I’m an adult now. It’s time I had matching towels.”
I choked off an expletive. “Jacob. I’m fifty-one years old and I don’t have matching towels. What makes you think you get a set?”
We had to have a conversation about the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need.’ Yes, you are setting up a kitchen and there are certain things you need in order to feed yourself properly. Yes, I get that you love to cook and would make good use of an enameled cast-iron dutch oven and a bamboo steamer. But you want those things. You need a can opener and a saucepan. A toilet brush is probably a good idea. And a sponge.
Sorry, buddy, but helping you set up a bed to sleep in is a tad more important than helping you set up a fish tank.
We had trouble finding him an acceptable second-hand desk. I explained the wonders of cinder blocks and explained how you could use them more or less like Lincoln Logs in combination with scrap wood to make furniture. He shut that down in a hurry. “No one in the history of college has ever actually done that,” he said.
“Me,” I said. “And everyone I knew.”
His eyeroll spoke of a time before the internet and TikTok when people had no way of knowing that what they were doing was in terrible taste.
“Okay,” I said, “But I’m not buying you a new desk.”
“We’ll find one,” he said confidently.
We did find one, purchased for a few bucks from a fellow college student. It almost fit in the back of our minivan. It took us nearly an hour to figure out how to take it apart enough to wedge it in and then get it bungee-corded down so it wouldn’t fall out. We left the back door open and drove back to his apartment at about five miles an hour with the hazards on. We prayed we wouldn’t get killed by the highly aggressive Texan drivers around us or by being swallowed up by the potholes we weren’t going fast enough to sail over, Dukes of Hazard style.
By the time I left, he had enough dishes for four meals, a standard variety of pots and pans, a toaster, enough supplies to clean it all up, somewhere to sleep, a desk at which to do his homework, a chair to sit on, two barstools, an empty fish tank, and enough food to last him at least a week. Oh, and matching-freaking-towels. That’s all I can do for him. He can cook, he knows how to do laundry, and he has enough money if he budgets properly.
I taught him how to fly. It’s up to him to use his wings.
If you enjoyed this and want to read more like it, visit Lori at her website, www.loriduffwrites.com, on Twitter, or on Facebook. Her newest book, a Foreword INDIES Gold Medal award winner, “If You Did What I Asked In The First Place” is currently available by clicking here.
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