At the end of her freshman year in college, having earned a less-than-stellar GPA, our daughter, Amanda, informed us that living in a dorm was too distracting. Her solution to the dorm problem: an apartment. She had already found the perfect one, a loft in an upscale building about 10 minutes from campus.
Along with her mediocre grades, she had acquired a taste for partying and what her parents felt was a mediocre boyfriend. I suspected her grades had been a product of the "information osmosis" study method: sleeping from 3 a.m. until noon with books and notes under the pillow.
Predicting disaster, I voted against the apartment plan. I pointed out that had her head not been permanently affixed to her neck, she would have lost it long ago. A prime example: On her previous two visits home, she had started back to school without her computer. I ranted that putting her in an apartment was inviting condemnation by the board of health or eviction for throwing wild parties.
Since she had barely performed in the semistructured atmosphere of the dorm, she would surely self-destruct unsupervised in an apartment.
But my husband, Sam, saw it differently: "She'll learn to be responsible," he said.
He saw an apartment as the end of her moving the flotsam and jetsam of her life back home each year, rendering the basement and attic inaccessible for two months, before she packed it back into a borrowed van and dragged it up four flights of congested stairs on, no doubt, the hottest day of Indian summer. He also had unflagging faith that this child wanted to turn her life around.
I lost the argument, as I usually do when father and daughter join forces.
My name is on the lease and the utilities. I've been to the apartment four times – once to sign for high-speed Internet, twice for transport of furniture and other household goods, and once for an initial run to the grocery store on my tab.
My daughter's sophomore year has come and gone. As leaseholder on her apartment, I have not yet been served with an eviction notice or dunned for nonpayment of bills.
For the summer she had a paying internship with the government and a job working as a cashier on the weekends. Gone is her boyfriend. He still calls, but she turns off the phone.
To my surprise, she readily admits that being "uncommitted" has its benefits and allows her to concentrate on her studies. Those are words I thought I would never hear.
We exchanged the following e-mails this afternoon:
"Mom – I know I'm smart, but culinary skills are not exactly my thing. How do you make hard-boiled eggs?
"See you Friday night! Can you get that cranberry walnut chicken salad again? It was sooo good! Love...."
"Sweetheart – assemble: pan, water, stove (top), eggs (leaving the shell on is strongly recommended), timer (a watch will do). Put the eggs in the pan and put enough water in the pan to cover the eggs. Then put the pan on the stove (on top of a burner is a good idea), turn the burner to high, and set your timer to 20 minutes.
"After 20 minutes, turn off the stove, pour out the hot water (not on your hands), and let cold water run over your eggs. (I usually put in a little ice so they cool faster.) Peel them while they are still warm. Love...."
"Thank you, Mom, for completely breaking down the process/science of making hard-boiled eggs. Just the boiling time would have been sufficient. Hehe.
"See you Friday...."
My unrequested informational supplement:
"Darling – FYI: The science involved in forming hard-boiled eggs is protein denaturation and loss of solubility, caused by the heat of cooking. Love...."
"See, this is why I can't live at home. Too much extraneous information. Hehe.
"P.S., I got my grades online. Sorry, I did get one B, the rest are all A's.
"P.P.S., don't forget the cranberry walnut chicken salad. See you Friday. Don't go out to dinner without me. Love...."
I can't speak to cause and effect, but a year ago I would neither have been sent the first e-mail nor received the last. Needless to say, I just signed the form to renew the lease on the apartment.