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They May Be Off to College in Style but It’s Still Tough to Say Goodbye

On May 24, 1992 at 5:02 p.m. my life changed forever; on August 25, 2010, it changed again. The baby boy who debuted two minutes into “Happy Hour” will join the thousands of first year students beginning their trek through college.  Things around here will never be the same, my son Will is now a college student.

For most parents, watching their offspring leave the nest marks a bittersweet chapter in their lives.  Although the maturity process is a certainty (for most people), it is difficult to imagine your son or daughter out there on their own building for the future.  Wasn’t it just yesterday when they dismantled his grandparent’s exercise bike to see how it worked?  I can clearly recall the Civil War battle reenactment we attended when my petrified four year old son climbed up my body and nearly strangled me when he heard the command to “FIRE AT WILL!” wondering what he had done to rate a Confederate firing squad.

Memories in tow, Janet and I accompanied Will to the rolling hills of Pennsylvania to help move him into his new college digs.  From the amount of clothes and gear Will packed, one would think that he was preparing to spend the rest of his days far from home.  When we arrived at the school we were quite surprised at how well organized the move-in process was.  Parking directly in front of his dorm, we were able to carry every item up one flight of stairs and into his room in under an hour.  Through the generosity of his maternal grandmother, Will owns the largest dorm refrigerator in the history of American college life.  Brand new, stainless steel and standing nearly five foot high, this model is the Cadillac of mini-fridges.   Will’s Nana, undoubtedly concerned about her grandson’s culinary well being, added a matching microwave for good measure.

Unlike most college dorms, California University of Pennsylvania’s accommodations are more like a large hotel room.  Even with all the trappings brought by Will and his roommate Sam, there was still room for more.  Sam’s parents surprised their son with a thirty-eight inch flat screen television on move-in day, which was really nice, but made Janet and I feel like a couple of paupers.  Rising to the financial challenge, we offered to enhance the atmosphere with a sofa or a futon, so the boys can entertain fellow freshman in their swanky fresh domicile.

Completely unfamiliar with the area and not to be outdone, Janet and I went out in search of sturdy furniture. Before I go any further, allow me to explain the region surrounding the school. There is a very small town (California, PA) right outside of the university gates and after that there is thirty miles of cows between Will’s dorm and any recognizable retail business.

Fortunately our hotel was in a no-cow-zone. A couple of modest means, Wal Mart was our first stop.  The only item Wal Mart had in stock was a futon that would trouble remaining erect in a light breeze. While exiting the store a local woman overheard Janet and I talking about our mission and suggested a discount furniture store nearby.  Armed with my trusty Blackberry, I Googled the address, loaded it into the GPS, and off we went.

Funny thing about GPS systems; they are only as good as the address you enter.  Following the monotone instructions of Carmen our Garmin, Janet and I ventured onto a desolate stretch of road straight out of one of those mutant hillbilly cannibal movies you might find on Starz at 2 am.  We saw goats, cows, and hay, but no loveseats, futons, or carnivorous locals of any kind. Surely this seemingly well meaning stranger who directed us to this mythical outlet was a shill for the aforementioned cannibals hoping to provide her kin folk with a southern style buffet with a side of Yankee, yet, on this day, it was not to be.

We visited every possible venue that day and came up dry.  Janet and I ended up ordering a futon online and shipping it to the boys.  Although we failed in our mission, the power of the Internet saved us from total defeat.

On Friday, we said our goodbyes, shed a few tears and headed south with an empty car and aching hearts.  Parents enjoy every moment with your children, for one day they might be sipping a cold soda on their futon in cow country and your home will unbearably quiet.  I miss him already.

By Jon Kaufman
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