According to the Urban Dictionary, “dormify” means “to decorate your living space with cool, trendy, hip fashion.” I thought I was up for that, as my children approached their college years.
When I pictured what college shopping would be like with my son first, and my daughter later, I imagined joyfully strolling store aisles, selecting bedding, shower caddies and bed risers, both of us brimming with excitement. Even knowing my children well, I could never have guessed how different each experience would be; it was night and day, and neither situation quite matched my ideal.
By midsummer 2008, I asked my son when we would be making our historic shopping trip together and was told, “I don’t need anything.” Reacting calmly, I inquired as to his plan for sheets and towels, and he responded that he really didn’t want anything, but if I was going to the store, I could pick out whatever I wanted – he had no preferences.
So, I proceeded to Bed, Bath & Beyond, carefully selecting basic supplies, glancing wistfully from side to side at other recent graduates, their mothers beaming with pride as they deposited bed bug protectors in their carts and chattered on about splitting the mini-fridge cost with roommates. If only I had known what would transpire three years later, I might have been satisfied with that turn of events.
College shopping took on a whole new meaning with my daughter. She planned every detail with the meticulous precision of a C.I.A. operative. I went from a boy who might not have noticed if I had sent along his old Power Ranger sheets to a girl who was planning a decorator showcase. She knew more about thread counts and coordinated wall décor than I ever did, carefully snipping photos of family and friends to affix in a proper framed montage. She did research online and knew precisely which comforter would be the centerpiece of her room, which water filter she needed and which lap desk she favored. She studied catalogs and read student blogs and product reviews.
As she scoured the aisles of the local Bed, Bath & Beyond, armed with a scanner gun and series of lists, some color-coded, I shadowed her as she selected her essentials. She had special hangers for boots and scarves, food storage containers, first aid supplies, nesting baskets and a makeup carousel. I respected her attention to detail and appreciated her requests for input, sharing with me the enthusiasm her brother lacked. I was just a bit overwhelmed at times by the enormity of the undertaking.
Our son’s limited possessions fit snugly in one S.U.V., which also carried four passengers and weekend luggage. When we arrived at school, student volunteers swarmed the car, collecting his possessions in a flash and depositing them in his room.
Three years later, we embarked on a similar journey, this time with no rearview visibility. At her dormitory, the school’s football team did a few chest bumps, cheerfully emptying everything in the S.U.V. that wasn’t bolted down. Although we were grateful to those strong young men, we were not close to done: we still needed to pick up the scanned order at the Bed, Bath & Beyond near the school.
When we arrived at the store, my husband motioned toward an overflowing shopping cart parked near the registers, assuming it was our daughter’s order. It wasn’t. Her order came out moments later, piled high on a large dolly. For a second we both wondered if renting a U-Haul might not have been preferable. She had not amassed piles of wasteful items, just many of the basics commonly selected to equip a dorm room, eschewed by my minimalist son, plus storage for the grooming supplies, healthy snacks and clothing accessories not typically associated with boys. We had expected that outfitting her for college would cost more than it did to set up our son — and we were right.
Somehow, we fit her entire order into the S.U.V. and returned to the dormitory parking lot. We were embarrassed to pull up again, greeted by the same enthusiastic athletes. Luckily, they were so pumped up with adrenaline, they didn’t notice and loudly welcomed us to the school once again.
As I reflect on the entire college move-in experience with my son and daughter, I think it would have been nice if some of my son’s relaxed approach had rubbed off on my daughter, and a little of her organized, thoughtful approach had rubbed off on him.
Truth be told, my son could have survived with just his laptop, iPhone and the clothes on his back. He would be a good candidate for an island shipwreck; my daughter, not so much.
Risa C. Doherty is a mom, lawyer, freelance writer and family educator from Long Island.
iated her requests for input, sharing with me the enthusiasm her brother lacked. I was just a bit overwhelmed at times by the enormity of the undertaking.
After the shopping came the move-ins.