The college drop-in

Welcome home, dear son: You're simply not giving me an opportunity to miss you.

Posted: August 25, 2007

Once upon a time, a little bear dreamed of leaving his home in a beautiful wooded land - we'll call it Montgomery County - for college in California. But without a car, that state was much too big to get around.

So the little bear went to college in Philadelphia instead, and lived in a dorm his freshman year. It was lots of fun, but the residence-hall rules were too small-minded. ("Really stupid, what do they think we are anyway, Mom, high school kids?")

So the little bear moved to apartments farther and farther off-campus. But only one place always seemed to be just right: his home in that beautiful wooded place. He came home a lot. To do laundry. To shower. To avail himself of the DSL. To mooch toilet paper (mostly during the year he shared space with three girls). To snack on whatever was in the usually semi-well-stocked fridge. To hang out and play music.

So much for my empty nest. Or should I say den?

Laugh at your own risk, dear parent of a newly minted college student! If your child is enrolled at any one of the fine halls of higher learning in this metropolitan area, it can happen to you!

Don't get me wrong, I adore my little bear, my only child. I dreaded the thought of his going to California, but resolved to suck it up if that's what he really wanted. I rejoiced when he opted to stay close, and wept at the threshold of his unused bedroom the day he moved into his dorm.

But since then, he's popped up back home so often, and so unpredictably, that I feel like a full-service mom with a part-time staff.

My boy sometimes parachutes in looking for towels for a weekend trip, or to meet friends at a central location. More often, he'll land with no notice to study for a big exam or to write an important paper.

A typical afternoon in my life goes something like this: My husband, who's usually home long before I am, calls at work with a bear warning.

"The boy's here. Bring pizza," Hubby says, putting me on herbivore alert.

To be certain, I call Little Bear's cell. "Hi, Sweetie, you home for dinner tonight?"

"Nah, I'm going back to school. I just came to do some laundry, Mom."

So I innocently finish my day's labors, then order a pizza anyway to pick up on the way home.

But, horror of horrors, I pull into the driveway, bearing dinner for two, and the boy's car is still there! Frantic, I whip out the cell phone.

"Why didn't you tell me he was still home?" I yell at my husband. "I don't have enough food for three!"

"Then he won't eat, will he?" my husband reasons.

Clearly, the man has never been a mother. The shame of it! Why, I may as well leave the child all alone in the woods without a bowl of porridge, hot, cold or otherwise!

"Why didn't you call to tell me you'd still be here, Sweetie?" I ask my boy, teeth clenched. "I only bought one pizza."

"Laundry's still in the dryer," Little Bear says. "Can't leave till it's done."

So we split yet another pie three ways and wait until the dryer goes off. And I help him fold his clothes, and load his hamper and guitar and laptop and backpack into his car.

And I make Little Bear promise to call me at the office next time he thinks he'll be home for dinner. He says he will, but it's a better bet he'll drop in unannounced.

It feels just right.

Contact staff writer Joanne McLaughlin at

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