The Return of the Graduate

The blog that drew the most views (160) in 2016 was “Top 10 ways I know my son is home from college”.  This high readership is either because my son is so popular  his friends wanted to read about the chaos he creates when he returns home, a whirlwind on steroids would do less damage.  Or there are many frustrated mothers of college-age children who read my blog and were comforted to learn that they are not the only ones spending a small fortunate on their college-bond children only to have them turn into untidy aliens who lock themselves in their room and listen to loud music late into the night. Said music seeps through the floor into my office and sanctuary, making  me even more irritable than usual.

Homecoming:

I would like to tell you this is a passing phase, but my son just graduated, December 2016, and the house is even more of a wreck since he brought  his stuff home (I learned a bicycle and bed were left in Moscow to be fetched at some later date) . After spending $68,000 on his education, he “needs to decompress.”  He will be starting his job search in February because we are spending the month of January exploring Australia. He actually could have had a job. He turned down a very good job with a local company after interning there two summers because “it wasn’t interesting enough and he wants to live in Seattle.” 

The job fairy told him his first job out of college would be fascinating, with lots of challenges, great benefits and highly paid. This same  mythical creature informed him that needy employers would seek him  out making him adverse to filling out any applications. We live in a bold new world where talent seekers find us in the wilderness.  They go out into the streets of rural America and when miraculously a new college graduate is sighted  (there are very few in Idaho), they shout; “Yo! I got a good one over here.” Unfortunately, these creatures have not stopped by my house yet.  Do you think it’s because we look too well off to need  work?

Scott spent the first days after finals skiing in McCall, staying at our cabin and using a season ski pass his father bought him. When he came home from his ski vacation, he dropped everything in the front door and went back to McCall skiing.  His father and sister, serfs to my commands, transferred his many boxes of junk upstairs so our weekly cleaning crew could get into the house.  The cleaners only clean the main floor because my children “maintain” their living area, the entire upstairs.  I rarely venture upstairs into the” adult free zone”. I m always amazed at the disaster my children find is acceptable cleanliness.  Periodically, I pay extra for my cleaning crew to do the upstairs in the hopes that they will find the wild animals, vermin,  and various insects that might be residing in this delectable space before I do.  After all there is food, plates, forks, glasses, empty cans, used towels, dirty clothes, old pizza boxes and things I’d rather not identify just lying around.  Even my dogs, who are known for the devilish tricks do not venture into the “Scott Zone.”

I should not be surprised possessing a bachelors degree has not changed my son’s life style. After all, fraternity houses are probably not the place to learn  the social etiquette of maintaining a high end house. When he arrived home from school after the ski trip, he dumped everything from his  many boxes on the landing floor(he noticed his possessions had levitated to the upper regions. He acted surprised,  attributing the transfer of his possessions to the house wizard. (You know the one who did the entire pick up when he was about 3) He was looking for his toothbrush and deodorant, neither of which materialized in the pile of belongings the size of a mini Mount Everest.  After taking a new toothbrush from our stockpile. He miraculously found his deodorant (Thank you to the arm pit gods!) properly spoofed-up to be in public, he took off to see friends again, leaving his belongings unbound.

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Clothes jumping out of their baskets.  This havoc is done by the nasty basket troll.
Christmas:

On Christmas day, I moved all his stuff into the guest bedroom so his sister could get to her room unencumbered.  I was tired of hearing her daily status report.

“Mom, he has dumped more stuff!”

“ The stuff is creeping towards my room.”

“ The mountain collapsed and you can’t walk around anymore.”

“It’s awful having him home!”

“When is he going to find a job!”

The day after Christmas, he left for skiing again.  His refunds from taxes and his summer 409B plan are funding his activities. After skiing, he touched down in Boise to gather more friends and spent New Years  snow shoeing into a yurt, exact destination unspecified since he is an adult and “on his own”.

This scenario caused me to gnaw on my arm until it is bleeding, like a dog with fleas and I have a acquired a terrible pain in my neck on the right side.  Meanwhile, my 70 year-old husband goes out to work every day.  Am I wrong in thinking there is something askew in this description of familial bliss as we enter a new year.

New Years:

The first week of the New Year, he has shaved off his mustache and other facial hair revealing a new face and new attitude. He has talked to friends about living arrangements in Seattle and Boise.  He has been working on a rough agenda for our trip to Australia, a graduation gift for him and a check on life’s bucket list for me.  We are gone three weeks in January.  The creeping clothes have managed to sidle up into his drawers and his TV has been placed on a stand on his desk,  stopping the loud sounds permeating my sanctuary below. My daughter has stopped complaining about his return and gone back to lurking in her bedroom, door closed, texting friends, and reading the Harry Potter series from start to finish.

Summary: All is well that ends well.

 

 

Home

I have been taking a memoir class that focuses on writing short bursts of memory about your life.  This week’s assignment was:  Develop a list of things that seem trivial or small but upon reflection are vital.  Since it is Thanksgiving week, my list is about my home and family.

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Pete and I on vacation in Wyoming

Peter: 

Around 6 a.m. each morning my husband noisily scuttles around the end of the bed and kisses me briefly on the mouth, occasionally missing and hitting my cheek in the dark. He rotely says, “Have a nice day!” I’m still dozing, catching the last misty grays of dreams, gauzy thoughts I can’t return to. Sometimes he forgets the first time out the door; then he comes back.

Cats:

White cat, called Angel but a stinker in a slinky fur coat is carefully washing Satchel, the grey Tom cat’s face. He is preening on her behalf, neck extended, eyes closed in ecstasy, macho man for sure. Angel lunges. Satch takes a surprise bite to the neck.   They simultaneously link legs, lego-like, replicating a gyrating hair pillow of intertwined grey and white, rolling off the bed and chasing each other into the floor length curtains, fluttering now like animated ghosts in a fun house.  All goes still.  Each cat marches out a different side, tails twitching, parallel metronomes, heads held high—a draw.

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Violet in repose

Violet:

The rat terrier, bolts through my legs out the front door, across the street, over the berm, hair on her neck raised, resembling an enraged porcupine’s quills, tail pointed rigidly out, barking in a loud, sharp, rat-a-tat-tat, a sergeant leading a non-extent platoon into battle.  I am the bugler shouting repeatedly, “Violet Come!” Out of sight, the barking is interrupted by a guttural, primeval, wolverine growl.  High pitched screaming and screeching echoes over the hill in response to my call.  Head down, whimpering, tail between her legs, all body parts intact; Violet limps home, a vanquished warrior.

Shani:

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Shani, a mini-me Lassie

 

Shani,is my giant miniature collie, a mini-me lassie look a-alike with an absurdly fluffy coat resembling  caramel-colored pom-poms. Today, she, keeps gently nudging my hand with her long pointed nose, her head is all olfactory lobe.  I finally realize I have put her food  where Violet’s bowl goes. Shani is either too polite or timid to touch it.  I move Shani’s bowl to its proper place and she chows down.

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Kayla this summer

Kayla:

My 17 year-old daughter texts from school:

  • Can I go to a concert? My homework is done, I have my own money, I’m taking my car.
  • Mom?????

 

At the concert she texts:

  • Here now.
  • Can I stay until 10:30?
  • Leaving now. Taking Emma home.

10:50 p.m. I hear the garage door open.

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Scott, home this summer using his room.

Scott:

When we moved into our home 11 years ago, Scott controlled a third of the upstairs; his bedroom, attached bath, a playroom usually filled with teenaged boys playing video games and the best view in the house off his balcony. The balcony has been used for tossing a five foot stuffed Mr. Simpson off regularly, testing rope ladders, a cat escape hatch to the roof and a feline wrangling corral for said cats, but hardly ever for contemplation and viewing.  Since Scott has been largely absent for the last four and half years, his sister has stealthy slunk in and helped herself to his sweaters and shirts  much to his chagrin. Now, I pass a closed door with a plastic sign reading, Scott Kozisek, Keep Closed.

Me:

The night owl. I crate the dogs, walk through the house, turn off the lights, check the dishwasher is set to wash, flip the gas logs off leaving only the blue glow of the pilot light where a warming flame just resided, test the locks on the outside doors. I snuggle under the heated blanked wrapping myself around my husband like a clam shell protecting a pearl. The pesky cats are nesting on my side of the bed, entangling my feet.

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Pete and I on our 27th wedding anniversary this summer.

 I hope each of you has a wonderful Thanksgiving!  My family has much to be thankful for.

My Tiny Arizona Home, the right size at the time

I am an HGTV (Home and Garden Channel) fanatic. I particularly like House Hunters International and recently, I have started watching Tiny House Hunters.

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Cottage Style Tiny House on wheels

I am intrigued by all the varied designs and nooks and crannies that can be folded into 500 square feet or less. I am also fascinated by the reasons people desire tiny homes.  The premise of the show is that Americans are looking to downsize, simplify their lives, travel more, and just save money. Probably my biggest reason for being interested in tiny houses is that I lived in a tiny home before there was a tiny house movement.

 

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I received a masters degree in sociology in 1975.

When I was a graduate student at Arizona State University (ASU) in the mid-seventies, my first apartment by myself was a  ground-floor studio  measuring approximately 200 square feet.  A studio apartment combines living, bedroom, kitchen into one space with a separate bathroom. While the new tiny homes may have many exquisite details such as granite, wood paneling on walls and ceiling, my apartment was the scaled down version with cinder block walls, rattan furniture in the living area, a formic dining table for two, wooden beads surrounding the  double bed for privacy, regular closet and a kitchen along one wall. The piece de resistance of the kitchen was the stove with an oven above, pull-out burners and an oven below.   In 1973, microwave ovens were not ubiquitous as they are now.  They were just starting to show up in high end kitchens (first counter top micro wave was distributed by Amana in 1967).  My home had a front porch with patio furniture looking out on a shared swimming pool and a back door that opened to the parking area.  The climate in Arizona is such that having the outdoor space is the same as adding a substantial amount of square footage, especially with a swimming pool available for everyone in the complex. The apartment complex and pool were well maintained and the location was close enough to campus to bike.

I felt like a queen in my special place. One couldn’t do much decorating because of the cinder block  walls. But I did have posters scattered about.  Unlike folks who are downsizing to a tiny house, the studio was  upsizing for me from  a dorm room and then a shared two-bedroom apartment. I had plenty of space for one and I enjoyed having my own privacy.

The biggest drawback to the Arizona place was not size but no pets.  I love animals.   When I was in graduate school, I didn’t really have the time or financial resources for pets so that lack of one was not  a problem.   A few years later when I had a regular job, one of my first goals was to purchase a house so I could have animals without the restrictions placed on pets by landlords.

My memories of Arizona are magical. I loved the University, the independence, the desert, the hot days and cool nights. I have memories of playing soft ball andpar 3 golf during day. At night, we would sip wine coolers on patios warmed by fire pits and accompanied by live music.  These were all new and exotic activities as a cowgirl who grew up in Wyoming and went to a Presbyterian College in Nebraska for my first experience away from home.

While I was at ASU, I had a number of guy friends. One of them, Dave, was a desert rat. He had an orange jeep and would take us out on extreme dirt roads to view the gorgeous red mountains, cactus and wild flowers, all found in isolated, primitive areas.  After one such adventure,  I was cooking my specialty, spaghetti with red meat sauce. Actually, I am not a good cook, so this was my go-to meal for guests. Dave and I sat down to a festive Italian meal and the next thing I know he’s bolting to the bathroom sicker than a dog.

Cleaning up in a hurry, I dumped everything down the garbage disposal immediately clogging the drain. The  maintenance man, Charlie, came right over with a plumbing snake to clear the line. When he started pushing it into the drain, we heard a scream next door. Apparently, the drains were connected and the metal snake had popped out of my neighbor’s sink–a startling experience.  Meanwhile, Dave was moaning on the bed behind the beaded curtains, not enough privacy in times of distress.

Then Charlie removed the U drain below the sink, emptied the nasty red sauce and slimy pasta contents into a bucket.  He promptly stood  up and dumped the bucket into the now empty sink. At which point, the entire contents of the bucket shot through the open drain making a huge mess on the kitchen floor and splattering Charlie and I.

Dave emerged from his bead sanctuary to see what the commotion was about. When he saw the mess, he decided he was well enough to go home and recover.  Dave and I never discussed whether the illness was brought on by my cooking or a rapid stomach bug. I do know he never chose to eat with me again. The lesson from this experience is that houses are like spoiled children in need of regular attention. They have the ability to throw a tantrum by breaking down, leaking, flooding, cracking, at the most inconvenient times. Almost anything connected to a house is expensive. A good do- yourself-person in the family is a gift.

The other memory I have of my ASU home is not so amusing. One week night, I received a phone call from my former roommate, Pat, telling me she was coming right over and to tell no one. When she got to my house, she had a fellow grad student, Kathy with her. Kathy was hiding from her abusive husband. I was the only safe place the two of them could find.  I was safe because I didn’t know Kathy’s husband. Kathy and I sat up all night because Kathy was terrified.  Unfortunately, this happened more than once. I had never seen anyone so frightened as those times Kathy was escaping her raging, violent husband.

There is a happy epilogue to this story. Kathy did finally divorce her husband. She finished her  masters degree,  successfully pursued a doctorate and became an expert in the field of family violence.  As Kathy and I sat together on those terrifying nights, I made up my mind that no one should be that frightened in their home. I have spent many years in Wyoming and Idaho volunteering for and donating to programs committed to providing safe havens for women and children who are victims for domestic violence.

The lesson from my experience with Kathy is that houses (the four wall structure) are not homes (socio-cultural experiences created by the individual(s) living in the structure). Kathy had a better house than most graduate students because her husband had a regular job.  But a physical structure that does not provide safety and is not a refuge in times of trouble is not a home.  Today, in our world we have many refugees fleeing unsafe settings (estimated at about 60 million people around the globe today).  Any night in the United States, there are over half a million homeless individuals (men, women and children). Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness in the United States.  In other words, there are many people in need of refuge in our world today.

My 200 square foot studio apartment provided me with a lovely home for a year when I lived in Arizona.  My home was also a place of shelter for someone else in need.  I am grateful that my life has been blessed with  many homes filled with a great deal of love. Square footage truly doesn’t matter when seeking out a house, but the strength of character  and heart of those who reside within does.

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