This has been a year of major milestones for our family, not the least of which was the realization that I might finally be allowed to use our bathroom. After 17 years of mentoring and molding, we finally sent a child off to college. Unfortunately, it was the wrong child, so we had to go back and drag our 15-year-old out of the dorm, scold her for impersonating her older sister, and demand to know what she had done with her.
But we got that straightened out, freed our eldest from her sister's closet where she had been left with food, water, and four Harry Potter books (which, our youngest reasoned, is all anyone really needs for survival), and shipped off the correct daughter to a small college in upstate New York. We chose this school for its rigorous academic tradition, its generous endowment, and for its long and harsh winters. The latter was important, we felt, since it would shorten the time our child walked around in her typical teen-ager attire which, in Greek mythology, would cause distraught sailors to plunge to their deaths in an effort to reach shore. We figured a couple winters in New York would turn her into a more sensible dresser, one who, when walking down a city street, would not be mistaken for a pop star or a prostitute. (It's so hard to tell the difference these days. In my youth, you could always identify the former by their heavy make-up, flashy clothes, and garish wigs. Or am I thinking of Little Richard?)
It seems like only yesterday that my spouse and I were saying to each other "We really should start saving for college." Unfortunately, it WAS only yesterday, which-and I say this with the conviction that only comes from meticulous and thoughtful planning-was WAY too late. Fortunately, our daughter worked very hard in high school and earned a nice financial aid "package." Not to mention President Bush's tax rebate, which will help a lot, as soon as we decide which book it will pay for.
Fortunately, our other child is already working hard to be eligible for a full college scholarship. For example, she's planning on doing very well on the Harry Potter portion of the SAT.
With our eldest out of the house, we can now focus all our time on our youngest daughter, even though she does not seem particularly grateful for this new development. She just doesn't appreciate how much easier it makes parenting when there's only one child in the house. Now we just have one person to frisk for drugs and firearms when she returns home, just one bed to look under for cigarettes, just one set of calls from boys to monitor from the upstairs extension (at least, until my daughter catches me with the phone in my hand. But I can tell her I was "just dusting").
AND SPEAKING OF bathrooms, I had assumed that a one-third reduction in the female population would measurably limit the amount of pastel-colored debris that I had to walk around during my weekly shower. (I joined a gym years ago just to have a place to shave in the morning and only ONCE did I ever see anything pastel-colored on that floor. Okay, it was my Big Bird towel, but I stopped using it right after some big guys laughed at me after they snapped me with it accidentally.)
Unfortunately, the various gender-specific doohickies and somethings-on-a-rope are going to remain in the tub since there is still no place to put them on the shelves above. These shelves are crowded with ointments, creams, and other liquids about which I know nothing, except that under no circumstances am I permitted to touch them. Not that I would want to bathe with anything containing actual chunks of apricots and asparagus (what, no balsamic vinegar?). No, I'm only allowed to use the leftover motel soaps my parents bring when they visit. They get them for free on their trips. (They've also offered us bedspreads and side tables, but the Best Western motif clashes with my decor.)
Ironically, even after losing half the children, we still have ALL their pets (colleges don't allow students to bring animals, since the football players are hard enough to clean up after). Fortunately, we only have two more years until our other daughter goes off to school, at which point we'll immediately send the pets back to wherever they came from. Presumably a destination arrived at via flushing.
Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners. (Note to PETA members: Address all correspondence to email@example.com.)