You need to know two things before you read this latest blog post:
1) My husband and I and our four children have lived in our current home in the Chicago suburbs for 21 years.
2) We drove our youngest child and only son – John – to the University of Illinois yesterday to begin his freshman year of college.
You need to know this information because yesterday I developed an even more profound respect for the exceedingly difficult job of move manager. As someone who hasn’t moved in a few decades, I had forgotten just what “moving” really means.
Moving is absolutely daunting, even for the young, spirited and athletic 18 year olds who moved into the dorms at U of I yesterday. Hundreds of returning students, known as I-Guides by their bright orange t-shirts, were commissioned to assist freshmen and families with the grueling task of unloading the vans and SUVs that seized the campus.
Throngs of I-Guides were literally sprinting up flights of stairs in flip-flops, all while hoisting the requisite chests of cheap plastic drawers, tower fans, and cases of bottled water. (The packing container of choice for miscellaneous items seemed to be the black Hefty bag, however.) For our I-Guides, there was no sweat, no complaining, and genuine cheerfulness all around – oh, to be young again, I thought wistfully. The hot sun smiled down on us, as parents and kids navigated this awkward, curb-side moment together.
Once inside the dorm room is where the real challenge awaited. How I wished a NASMM member was nearby, to help us configure the 11 x 12 room so two strapping young males could actually walk in it without bumping into each other. Speaking of bumping into each other, my husband, son, and I did it too many times to count. Each time we would glare and act annoyed with the other, though it truly was no one’s fault. Space-planning is both an art and a science, and we failed miserably at both yesterday, I‘m afraid.
Additionally, the lack of A/C on a 90-degree August day simply added to the heat of the moment, when our collective frustration with so few electrical outlets got the better of us – or maybe just of me. These dorms were built in the 1960s – long before laptop computers, printers, cell phone chargers, iPod chargers, and 15-inch flat screen TVs accompanied every kid to college. Three outlets just would not work. Back to Meier or Walmart for more surge protector power strips, as old-fashioned $2.99 extension cords were strictly prohibited by the University. Huh? Where is that written, I asked?
In time, after we had consumed most of the water bottles we had brought for our son, we were able to get everything in order – or “order” as defined by an 18-year old boy. We looked around the narrow patch of 40-year old linoleum he would call “home” until next May, and knew it was time to say our good-byes.
On the way home, driving down the dimly-lit interstate in our white, rented Dodge Caravan, I told my husband how utterly exhausted I was by this move process, and its million little details. We forgot the Phillips-head screwdriver needed to assemble the base of the tower fan, as well as the poster putty for John’s beloved White Sox flag. How come we didn’t anticipate the need for a floor lamp, especially when this was our fourth child going to college . . . and the fourth to this college!
I can’t even imagine what the move process is like for an 80 year old, who is permanently leaving her home of 40 years. How do you begin to sort through rooms and rooms of furniture, mementos and knick-knacks? How is it all packed, distributed or stored? Who can possibly arrange the space effectively when the move is from a 2500-square foot home to a 500-square foot assisted living apartment?As my husband and I continued our drive down the dark hallway of I-57, I tried to imagine an older adult’s move without the thoughtful, expert approach of a senior move manager. I grew weary just thinking about it, and dozed off to the sound of the White Sox-Twins game on the car radio. I wondered if John knew the Sox were winning 8 to 0.