Dropoff Success

We arrived at Carige Dorm at UNC last Friday at 9:30 AM.  Right on time.  We took two cars.  Stephanie drove her silver Honda Civic.  We couldn’t fit the wares and three humans in one.  Most of Michelle’s belongings were stuffed in my SUV, all seats down. 

It’s sort of amazing how much one can fit in a dorm room.  They ain’t large.  Michelle warned me, she looked up the measurements.  Wall to wall: 12’ x 13”.  Our living room rug is two feet longer and three feet wider than her entire living space – that she shares with another co-ed!  But, she’s young, and it’s nice to be able to high five your roommate without getting out of bed.

My first house had one bathroom.  The ceiling was slanted over the toilet.  You had to lean back if you peed standing up.  It was actually a nice abdomen stretch.

Dropping a kid off at school is sort of like walking to a flogging.  The criminal is dreading it as well as the flogger.   The uncertainty for her, the anxiousness for me.  How could I leave my kid alone in this unfamiliar place?  Michelle decided to ride with Stephanie, fearful of my frame of mind.  Who knew if Butterfly Kisses might cue up on Spotify, a sure tearfest to follow.

God works in mysterious ways.  An August, 100 degree day and a sixth floor dorm room help alleviate emotion.  It felt like we were moving into Satan’s attic.  Any water that might pour out of my tear ducts was redirected to my armpits.

Being your typical dad, I refused to take the elevator.  The staircase was much closer to the car, and I was too impatient to wait my turn.  I had a job to do and nothing would get in my way. 

I heaved the largest Tupperware bins on my shoulders and hiked the flights of stairs to the top floor, young bucks holding doors for me.  In retrospect, maybe I was trying to keep up with them, the handsome young fellas who I used to be – more girth in the shoulders than the waist.  No doubt in my mind that i was a fit a they.

A friend warned me to bring a second t-shirt, he had moved his son in the day before.   I’m not a big sweater” I told him.  I was wrong.

I prayed for strength.  I hoped her mother’s spirit would come out – strength, grit, and courage to fly.  I couldn’t be with her, but Lisa could.

It worked! 

We unloaded, hauled, unpacked and “decorated” like champs.  It was fun!  We enjoyed the time and her roommate’s family.  After lunch we walked back to the dorm.  We hugged in the lobby of Craige.  We both welled up, our masks helpful in hiding our fears – then, Stephanie and I exited quickly.  My middle kid put her hand on my back as we walked down the cement walkway to the parking deck.  We didn’t talk, but she knew. 

I held the emotion until I got back to my car.   It wasn’t pretty.  

 It’s been a transition for me and a transition for her.  But surprising to us both, all is calm.

Next we launch Julie’s two:  Virginia and Scotland.  In September, we rest. 

18 More Nights

My youngest one, Michelle, the one who is headed to college in approximately 18 nights including this one which is about over, and I ate dinner at the Players Retreat tonight over by NC State.  The PR is an old Raleigh haunt – I went there in college.  Great food.  Good service.  Sort of a know you by your name hangout.  The atmosphere makes the summer flies bearable. 

We had a great dinner with an appropriately attentive waitress.  Our conversation ranged from spring rods and curtains for the college dorm “closet” to recanting old day camp cheers that she might be able to recycle tomorrow at work as a youth counselor at the downtown YMCA.

When we got home, I plunked out the melody of a few tunes, and she casually sang along.  She has a beautiful voice.  At one point, I moved to the den to pay the VISA bill, and she practiced a song we’re trying to convince her to sing at our wedding later this year.  I held it together when she walked through the room, but had she checked the credit card statement, it would have been damp.  I sure am going to miss that voice in the house.

I’m not sure which of us has the most angst about her going away, the kid who is headed to UNC or the parent who is watching her grow up.

It seems so surreal.  Poof.  All three of them are grown. 

I saw a commercial yesterday with a father holding his kid on his shoulder.  For some reason the baby’s onesie caught my eye.  I have held that same child, in that same outfit, in that same position, and in my mind not so long ago.

I try to convince myself it won’t be different – she’s only 30 minutes away.  I don’t see her that much when she lives here full time.  Things won’t change.

They will to some extent.  They are supposed to.  They are supposed to for her.  They are supposed to for me.

I am happy in my soul for Michelle.  I am excited for her.  The world is her oyster!  The future is bright for us all.

But for the next three weeks, I think I might just lament a bit.

Oh So Funny

Zeila

The final kid has made a decision.  Michelle will attend UNC next year!  It breaks my heart because I attended NC State and that too was an option.  But she’s going baby blue.  Her mother would be proud.

She has also reconnected with a friend from middle school who will be her roommate.  I don’t know her well, but my recollection from the early years is stellar.  One mutual friend told Michelle, “There is going to be some fun had in that dorm room.  You are the funniest two people I know.”

As I ponder my youngest kid’s personality, humor pops to mind. 

I recently ran across a note I’d scribbled in 2009.  It listed several quotes from Michelle, my then precocious five-year-old.

Each night the girls would choose a book to read before bed.  A favorite was not really reading.  It was the I Spy book.  Each page had hundreds of items and the text tested your searching abilities.  There might have been a Christmas theme and your challenge would be to find four santas, six stars and a mistletoe wreath.  One page held trinkets from Halloween, and we were searching hard. 

Michelle (reminder, she was five):  “I want to find that damn bone.”

Me:  “You shouldn’t say that.”

Michelle:  “At least I’m at home.”

On a flight back from Wyoming that same year, a Sci-fi movie was being projected on the overhead TV.  Michelle was sitting with her Nana.  At one point in the movie, a guy pulled off his mask and his head had no eyes, nose, ears or mouth.  Michelle looked at her grandmother and said, “Now that’s not something you see every day.”

On that same vacation, Lisa was working to get Michelle to stop sucking her thumb.  It was incessant, and we had tried numerous tactics to quell her urge.  At bedtime one night, Lisa said, “Michelle, you have to try to stop sucking your thumb.”  Michelle replied, “I can’t sleep without sucking it.”  Lisa responded, “You have to.”  Michelle’s come back?  “Some parent you are.  I’m not going to sleep tonight.”

She spoke as if she was 82 yet she was trapped in a kindergartener’s body.

Her humor has continued and kept me in stitches a good portion of her life.  I will miss the daily chuckles.  UNC will gain.  It will be a funnier, happier place come mid August.

Michelle’s College Essay

The youngest, Michelle, is a senior in high school. She has been doing some major essay writing recently. The one below made me laugh. Maybe the apple didn’t fall far from the tree!

This is the prompt from the university:

Beyond your impressive academic credentials and extracurricular accomplishments, what else makes you unique and colorful? We know nobody fits neatly into 500 words or less, but you can provide us with some suggestion of the type of person you are. Anything goes! Inspire us, impress us, or just make us laugh. Think of this optional opportunity as show and tell by proxy and with an attitude.

This is the essay:

       I like to think of myself as the funny sibling in my family. I am the youngest of three girls, and as the youngest I have made it my duty to keep family dinner conversations, holidays, and hangouts exciting. You can always find me carrying a speaker around the house blasting music or convincing my sisters to play my favorite game, the No-Smiling-Game. The rules of the No-Smiling-Game are simple: the players try to make each other laugh while also simultaneously trying not to laugh in the process. No matter how annoying my sisters say the game is, they always give into playing because they know it is a guaranteed laugh. However, most recently I’ve found a new way to entertain my family and me: word mashing. 

            One may ask herself, What in the world is word mashing? Like the No- Smiling-Game, it is just as it sounds, taking two words and mashing them together. I’m not really sure where my word mashing, or as I like to call it “washing”, habits started. I think it was sometime during quarantine when I was extremely bored. I got my sisters in on the joke early on because I was constantly combining words around the house. However, my extended family wasn’t exposed to it until our annual summer vacation to the mountains of West Virginia. 

            The first word mash of the week was random, but in my personal opinion, the best of them all. My grandpa was telling a story about his very close encounter with a bear and mentioned bear territory. So naturally, I created “bearitory.” The beauty of word mashing to me is the accomplishment felt when finding a really good match.  After announcing a new word mash to the family and explaining exactly what word mashing was, everyone got in on the fun. 

One night at dinner my family and I were on a mashing roll. It all started when our waitress announced we were having spaghetti for dinner. The spaghetti noodles and spaghetti sauce came to the table thus “spoodles” and “spauce” were born. My uncle, Jesse, catching onto the trend, added that we were also having a “vedley” for dinner as an alternate way of saying vegetable medley. My 75-year-old grandma even joined in when she was inspired by the toppings on her salad: “Oh! I’ve got one,” she said tentatively, worried her word mash might not meet the high expectations of the experts at the table. She proceeded with caution, “Blumbles? Like blue cheese crumbles?” The entire table busted out into laughter. That night we came up with quite the list of “washes.”           

Throughout the week the list grew. Each day brought dozens of new and brilliant mashes to add to the collection. We even created a sort of point system for our new game. For example, the more obscure the word mash the more points earned. Additionally, if the word mash included two large words put together or if it consisted of two innocent words that sounded inappropriate, such as dill pickles (I’ll leave it at that), there was extra credit.

Once we left West Virginia, it was hard to return to a world where word mashing wasn’t commonly used by those around us. However, I’m not sure I would want everyone in on the fun. I sort of like the uniqueness of our family. Little things like “washing” or the No-Smiling-Game often bring the most laughter and create the best memories for me. 

#1 #2 #3 #4 #5

Julie with #4 at Furman!

#3 at Elon in her new apartment!                          

Julie and I have so many kids I can’t keep up with them all.  I’ve found it is best to just refer to them by birth order.

Two weeks ago, #2, #3 and #4 returned from working at overnight camps for the summer.  With them, they brought enough laundry to fill a school bus. You could smell them driving down the highway.  Whew!

Julie only got #2 for about 48 hours.  #3 and #4 were home for a couple of weeks.

#3 was preparing to move into an on campus apartment at Elon University.  Between her new curtains, bedspread, dishes, pillows, toaster (you get the picture) and her invitation to participate in the NC Debutante Ball, she has been quite the economic drain on the Tanner family this month.  I actually save money when she’s in college – which I find peculiar.

#1 graced us with her presence last weekend for about 18 hours.  Long enough to drop off laundry, pick up her new (used) VW and head to DC to see her boyfriend who spent the summer in Texas.  She returned the next weekend to pick up the laundry she left the previous weekend.  I just wash and fold as instructed.  I prefer to be referred to as Tide-man.

Last Friday, Julie and I drove #4 to Furman University in Greenville, SC, to move her in for her freshman year!  Other than her soon-to-be stepfather (a.k.a. Tide-man) losing her room key, unbelievable, it was a smooth transition.  The key reappeared that night, after we had the locksmith re-key the door on the third floor of Thurman Dorm and after I walked the entire campus no less than five times trying to figure out where I dropped the little booger.

This past Sunday, Julie and I drove #3 to Elon University in Burlington, NC, to move her in for her sophomore year.  #3 called that same night:  “Dad, I just wanted you to know that the new knife you bought for our apartment works great.  I just sliced my finger with it and am headed to the emergency room to have it stitched up.”

#1 texted tonight – “I’ve broken out in hives all over my legs.”

#2 called to make sure #4s drop off went well.  He’s a good man.

Next weekend, #5 and I are headed to Charlotte for Labor Day.  We are volunteering at a community event for Julie’s work.

Then we have the Deb Ball in Raleigh the next week.  We are hopeful #1’s boyfriend will join us from DC.  He’s a really nice guy.  I sort of feel sorry for #3s date.  He’s never met any of us, this could be overwhelming.  He’s just a friend, but still.

We follow Deb weekend with #2 at the Georgia- Arkansas game in Athens (he’s a Bulldog) then Furman parents’ weekend with #4, then Elon parents’ weekend with #3 and then St. Mary’s parents’ weekend with #5.  #5 and I are going to visit three colleges the first week in October and the second weekend in October is #4s Fall Break.  I won’t see her because I’ll be with #3 at Elon for Men We Love weekend with her sorority.  Two weeks later is #2’s Fraternity’s Parents’ weekend in Athens – and we can’t miss that!  They have an open tab at a downtown bar which they tout to encourage parents to attend – also unbelievable.  Fun, but unbelievable.  Last year we went to a dance club and were heckled for being so old.  I’m gonna wear skinny jeans this year to fool them.

Fortunately, all we have in November is a business trip to Vancouver (Julie is going to join me) and Thanksgiving (likely in a couple of cities across NC).

I’m writing like this is stressful – it’s really not.  We’re busy, but we are having the time of our lives with five incredible kids!

Parent Weekends, Here We Come!

Georgia Parent Weekend

Elon Parent Weekend

St. Mary’s Parent Weekend, the day after shoulder surgery – un…

Whew.

Julie and I have attended three Parent Weekends at three educational institutions in three different cities over the past three weekends.  I have slept in more beds this past month than Marco Polo did when he traveled through China.  I have met folks from all over the country and hung out in multiple dorm rooms.  I have eaten cafeteria food, attended ball games, partied in a Frat house and listened to seven acapella groups.  I have walked, Ubered, driven and ridden in a train.  I feel like a Fed Ex package.

Our first affair was in Athens, Georgia, at the University of Georgia, with Julie’s sophomore son.  This two day event was sponsored by his fraternity.  I know nothing about frat life so I have no idea which one he’s in.  Alpha Gamma Phi Epsilon Mu Pi Omega – or something like that.

This weekend was a bit different than the others.

On Friday night, after a nice dinner under a big white tent with a swanky port-o-potty, we went to a bar which the brothers had rented out for our pleasure.  When it was suggested that we hit another bar at around 10:30 PM, all the parents put on a smile (it was past our bedtimes) and began the trek down West Broad Street.  At our second stop, I received a high five from a tall young man when I walked out of the bathroom enthusiastically singing the DJ’s current tune, Remix to Ignition by R. Kelly.  It actually made me sort of proud although it’s a pretty old song so I’m not sure I should feel so hip.

I became quite uncomfortable when six young college ladies climbed up on a table in very short shorts and began twerking right before our eyes.  I gave them a disapproving look and then turned away.  It was like watching a train wreck – I could tell something bad was about to happen.  Fortunately we left so I didn’t have to see it.  If I’d had their parents phone numbers, I would have called.  Had it been my child on that table, I’d have snatched her down, put her in the car and sent her to a convent far, far away.

We ended the night at a dance club across the street from the Twerking Tavern.  This place had a movie screen larger than my house with videos that accompanied the 275 decibel music.  I was offended when I was walking in and two dudes yelled, “Daaaad,” as if I didn’t know I was too old to be there.  But when you have the moves, it don’t matter your age.  And I have the moves.

Our second weekend was with Stephanie, my freshman at Elon.  It was different from Georgia.  Her dorm room was immaculate.  The music was an acapella concert in a huge concert venue in the middle of campus.  We met several of her professors on Saturday, went to a ballgame where it was 106 degrees, and ate lunch with one of Steph’s best friends and her family from Texas.

Our final romp was at St. Mary’s, Michelle’s high school.  It was rather tame, and I’d had shoulder surgery the day before.  After walking to the science building a quarter mile from our previous destination, I nearly threw up.  I think it was the Oxycodone, but it may have just been the bad memories that overwhelmed me from my days in Mr. Boyd’s biology class in 1982.  I can still picture that enormous, gray worm he made us dissect.

But I did get to see my kid perform with her chorus in an incredible concert on the lawn.

Julie’s youngest doesn’t have a Parent Weekend, so we’ve only one left.  For DJ, the senior, we’re gonna skip the formalities and spend a casual weekend in DC next semester.  We had to have a breather – we are just so tired.

Another One Bites The Dust

packing

Stephanie, my middle kid, is heading to college on Friday.

I’m not sure what else I can do to prepare her.  We’ve covered sex, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, credit card abuse, #metoo, diversity, opioids, hygiene, tattoos, the benefits of making your bed each day, getting involved and academics.

Our conversations go something like this:

Me:  “Opioids killed 2,500 people in North Carolina last year.”

Stephanie:  “I’m sorry to hear that.”

Me:  “Often folks get addicted after having surgery because they use them for pain.”

Stephanie:  “Then don’t use them for pain.”

Me:  “I won’t.  You don’t either.  They may be running rampant at Elon.  I’m just not sure.  Please don’t take them.”

Stephanie:  “I won’t.”

I’m not sure if these lessons are seeping in.

I have such hopes and dreams for this kid.  She’s like the best kid in the world, and I’m about to toss her into the ocean of life.

Thankfully she will only be an hour away.  I can get to her quickly if I need her.  I guess I could just drive over there each morning to make her bed – just to ensure it gets done.  I’m sure she’ll be up early.

No, that’s ridiculous.  I wouldn’t really do that!  I’ll just see her on Sundays when she comes home to go to church with me.

OK – I’m going to be brave.  I’m going to unpack her stuff, drop her off and drive away without tears or a scene.  And I’m not going to drive to Elon to see her – until the second week when I’m “passing” through to go to Charlotte.  I mean seriously, I’m gonna drive RIGHT by the Elon exit on I-40, what do you expect me to do?

You-Haul

Last time I rented a U-Haul was around 1999.  Actually, my dad rented it to close down my grandparent’s house. My father, my brother and I drove the truck the two hours from Fayetteville, NC, where my parents live, to Florence, SC, where my grand folks lived.

Grand mama and Granddaddy Tanner lived in this house for a very long time and had accumulated A LOT of stuff.  I used to wonder how that could happen, how you could end up with so much junk.  Now, I know.  I have cans of green beans that are older than DJ not to mention rugs, tables, lamps and my dad’s Army uniform that I couldn’t button around my waist if I spent six years in abdominal cool sculpting.

We rented the largest vehicle in the U-Haul fleet knowing there would be a great deal of wares to disseminated between the three of us.  It was sort of like driving a wide YMCA bus sans the windows and sweaty kids.

If I recall, we had a refrigerator, washer and dryer, dressers, queen mattress sets, a china cabinet, tables… I wonder why we didn’t take table cloths and candle holders.  Nah.  We went BIG.  If you made a list of the heaviest items in your house, they were the ones we choose to hang onto.

The three of us packed all day and strategically placed the items in the truck based on delivery location.  We’d leave Florence late afternoon and hit my brother’s house two hours away, unload then repeat at my parent’s house that night.  The next day we would drive to Raleigh to unload my booty and return the truck.

Because my arms are the size of cooking skewers, I was tired by the time we finished packing the truck.  I mean I lift weights at the Y, but I seldom lift dishwashers.  And my brother… weakling (I really hope he read this.)  My dad, however, used to be quite a task master.  Once he started a job, he plowed through.  It didn’t matter how late it was, how tired you were or if you had a wedding to attend that night.  The job would be done in the time frame set in his head.  I’m sort of surprised he didn’t make us repaint the house before we left that day.

About an hour into our return trip headed north toward home, the U-Haul engine began to sputter.  We made it off the main highway before it completely died.  There we sat in the gravel parking lot of Ennis’ Auto Sales.  Thankfully we had all the necessary items to cook, clean and sleep as needed.

U-Haul was great.  They brought us a new truck within a couple of hours so that we could unload the one we had and reload the new one.  Yes, we pulled EVERY SINGLE item out into Ennis’ parking lot and strategically put it all back in the truck.

I’m not sure how old my dad was when he directed, yes he was in charge, my six house moves and the closure of two grandparent houses, but if he was over 52, it was too old.  I recently moved DJ into her first apartment in DC.  She moved into a brownstone on a very skinny street a couple of blocks over from Trump’s place.  I was confident we could get her bed up the two flights of stairs to her bedroom but the dresser and the couch were another story.

You know what’s great about daughters?  They often have guy friends.  A little after we arrived, DJ made a plea for help via social media and two ROTC hunks were at our door within minutes.  Like these dudes are going to flight school next fall.  A couch was child’s play to them.

As I was pondering how to begin navigating the skinny stairway up to the den with couch in tow, Biff and Rocky picked up the couch, passed me in the hallway and carried it to it’s final destination – all within about 10 seconds.  They then asked if there was anything else I needed help with.  I felt so old, so useless.  Was I now solely the truck driver?  Was my toolkit not needed?  Was I not going to have the opportunity to put to use the years and years of dumbbell work I’d stored at the Y?

I am thankful for Biff and Rocky.  Taking a large couch up a small flight of stairs would have been a beast on my own, although I’m sure I could have done it.  But I will say those dudes stripped away a little bit of my manhood that day.

She’s Home

Ten Ways You Know Your College Student Has Returned:

10.  La Croix in da house! (the diet Coke of Millennials)

La Croix

9.  Tennis shoes in da house!  (the kitchen floor to be exact)

sneakers

8.  Dirty dishes in da house!

Dad:  “DJ, could you PLEASE clean up the dishes you use while I am at work?”

DJ:  “I clean up some of them.  Just not the hard ones.”

dirty dishes

7.  The stained shirt returns.

Phone call September 2017:

DJ:  “Dad, I got a stain on that white blouse.  Do you think you can get it out?”

Dad:  “Probably.  Just bring it home.”

May 2018:  It returns.

blouse

6.  A lone sweet potato, just hanging around.

sweet potato

5.  Tupperware filled with unidentifiable things.

tupperware

4.  Plugs, plugs, all kinds of plugs –

plugs

3.  Empty drawers.

Drawer

2.  Cluttered floors.

floors

1. The annual bathing suit blowout.

bathing suit

It’s so fun to have them back.  Right??

 

 

Ye Old College Tour Guide

elonfurman-university-belltower

This past weekend, Stephanie, Julie and I took our final, I think, university visit before decision day 2018.  We have it narrowed down to two:  Furman University in Greenville, SC, and Elon in Burlington, NC.

It is interesting that your college decision, a big one I might add, often relies upon two factors:

  • the weather
  • the tour guide

Both are a crap shoot.

Our primary guide this week was a freshman from Lenoir, NC, named Rupert.  He was enthusiastic and had his full head of black hair moosed up.  His bangs pointed toward heaven like a duck’s beak.  Although, from my estimation, he’d only been at Elon for seven months, he said he’d changed his major three times.  Reassuring to those who have yet to determine their lifelong goals.

Our tour group was small, only four.  Rupert was able to give us plenty of attention.

Rupert walked backwards the majority of the hike across campus.  Although it was evident he was walking backwards, he specifically pointed it out to us.  I think that was what he was primarily excited about – he was very proud of this skill.

I feel sort of sorry for Rupert and his colleagues across America.  These pour souls work so hard to be engaging, and yet, the high school senior demographic is not too keen on participation.  When your guide asks, “Does anyone have any questions,” so hopeful to fill the silence void, they often get nada.  The kids are too cool to ask; the parents have been threatened.  Julie’s kids told her she could not ask questions which is really, really hard for her.  I was warned too not to go overboard.  But when the dude says, “If you ask questions it makes my job easier,” I just feel compelled to speak.

I want to ask things like:

“Do the college students here drink, smoke pot and have sex?  And if so, what percentage of the student population do those things and how often?”  Or, “Do you have friends?  How did you make them?  I don’t want my baby to be lonely.”

I refrain, often asking what I already know:

“Does this school have study abroad?”

“Is the food good?”

“Are there clubs you can join?”

Anything to keep us from standing there in uncomfortable silence.

In one of the dorms, the guide opened a dorm room door and Julie and Stephanie walked in.  The stunned student, sprawled out on his futon was quite surprised, “This is not the room you’re supposed to visit!” he snarled at the guide.

Ooops.  Thankfully he was just reading.  It could have been much, much worse.

I feel really good about Stephanie’s options for college.  She wants a small liberal arts school and both of these fit that bill.  And perhaps this time next year she can don a purple or burgundy polo shirt and walk backwards through campus herself.  That might give her a little more patience with the adults in her life!

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