The Middle Child is in her last semester of college. Laura and I are visiting her this week, and this is probably our last visit to Tucson before Courtney graduates in May so I’m waxing sentimental. Over dinner last night we were sharing memories, eating ourselves silly, and enjoying more than our fair share of giddiness. I don’t think we were bothering our dining neighbors though, because there seemed to be nary a break in their conversation about cholesterol, heart medication, Tums, digestive issues, and doctors’ visits. As is the case with Florida, Arizona is one of God’s main waiting rooms, and the discussion between the elderly folk at the table next to us was only adding to our already self-induced giggling. (Please know that I’m not laughing at them, but with them. I know that recent discussions with my friends about perimenopausal symptoms, thyroid conditions, and such like are merely precursors to the discussion topics at the neighboring table last night.)

Courtney regaled us with a memory from her days in the dorms during her freshman year and I thought I’d share it here. Over at Derfwad Manor, the irrepressible Mrs. G. is preparing herself her daughter for her imminent departure to college in the fall, and so I sense the time is ripe to wantonly dispense unsolicited advice offer my support. When Kristen and Courtney entered college, their father and I thought it best that they live in the dorms during their freshman years. It seemed to us that while they were learning to mix a proper margarita balance the freedom of living in a parent-free environment for the first time with the challenge of going to class with a hangover a full-time college schedule, they would benefit from the semi-structured and time-honored traditions of dorm life. We hoped that it would provide them the opportunity to meet people right away, and to be more fully integrated into what we perceived to be “the full college experience.” That was our hope. What we knew for sure was that whatever else might happen, if they had a room in the dorm with a cafeteria, at least there would always be food and shelter.

In Courtney’s dorms, toasters and toaster ovens were forbidden. I didn’t know that Courtney had saved up enough money from the fifty-cents-per-week allowance that we gave her to buy one and had smuggled it into her room. So I was somewhat amused when I found out that Courtney had set off the smoke detector in her room while making a grilled cheese one afternoon. She said that since it was only the in-room smoke detector, she was able to fan some fresh air near it and got it to turn off right away. According to Courtney, the fire department only responds when the smoke detectors in the hallway are activated, so her rebellious grilled-cheese sandwich making went undetected by The Man. One afternoon, just after my criminal mastermind of a child finished toasting herself another grilled cheese, the dorm-wide fire alarm sounded. Knowing that she’d be evicted from the dorms if she were caught in possession of a toaster oven, Courtney quickly grabbed it, wrapped it in a blanket, and concealed it underneath her bed. Then she headed out into the hallway to evacuate and wait for the fire department to arrive, inspect the building, and then clear the dorm for reentry as required by university rules. In the hallway it was discovered that the alarm had actually been set off by another resident whose paper decorations got too close to a lamp. Courtney was relieved that it wasn’t her grilled cheese that had alerted the authorities. She called me later to tell me about the event.

Courtney: “Mommy, would you have been disappointed in me if I got kicked out of the dorm for having a toaster oven?”

Mom: “I would have been disappointed at your stupidity.”

Courtney: “For having a toaster oven?”

Mom: “No, for hiding it under your bed. Next time the smoke detector goes off, hide it under your roommate’s bed. Duh.”

15 comments on “Teach Your Children Well”

  1. i think its inevitable that kids in dorms will set off the smoke detector with a toaster over. I think it happened about 4 times in my freshman year alone…

  2. now that is good advice! right up there with my mom’s “clean the shower while you’re showering”.

    and since you asked. i am both a little bit country (love brad paisley) and a little bit rock and roll (red hot chili peppers).

    vin is short for vinyasa which is the type of yoga my sister teaches, and her online trivia name.

  3. I felt a bit sentimental reading your post myself.

    At Smith, you live in the dorms all four years. They call them “houses,” though, and for good reason.

    Remind me to tell you about the fire I started in one of my houses. And I was a SENIOR! 🙂 And absolutely no illicit devices were involved–I’m just that good. 😉

  4. This made me smile…I remember in our dorm the very inventive ways we had to cook…Oh the feasts you could make with an old style popcorn popper, a “new” styled one (with the flat bottom and bubble lid) and a hot plate!!
    What great memories!! Now, with all the handy-dandy gadgets, cooking in the dorm isn’t such an adventure, I wouldn’t think!!
    Or maybe not…..we should ask your daughter about that!!
    And really?? Your daughter is about to graduate?!?!?!?! What were you…A child bride?!?!?
    Please post your “helpful ways to staying young”!!!

  5. You *must* have taught her well — she knew how to make grilled cheese ALL BY HERSELF? That’s like half of the food groups ALL in ONE! Man, my mom only sent me off with knowledge of how to use make a wicked tuna fish and Ragu sandwich.

  6. @Blue Mountains Mary & Dkuroiwa:

    God Bless You both for making me smile today. I actually have one who graduated from college last year (Kristen) and the one who is about to graduate (Courtney). Now mix in the eight-year-old (Laura), and some days (like today), I’m feeling ancient and worn. But the joy of my three girls make every stretch mark, sagging body part, and worry line seem like a worthy reward.


  7. I would also advise her not to wrap a blanket around a smokin’ hot toaster. Derrr. Tell Coco, next time to put it in the mini-fridge she has hidden in her closet… you know, the one filled with Bartles and James… oh wait, that’s another story.

    Oh and I don’t remember teaching just jamie to mix tuna and Ragu. I do remember peanut butter and potato chip sandwiches though. Yum.

  8. @Trish:

    Better the hot toaster in a blanket than incarceration.

    And the plot thickens. I thought the potato chips were a recent infatuation. Turns out you’ve had a lifelong affair with them, haven’t you?

  9. Ha ha . . . that is so funny! My roommate set off the smoke detector in the bathroom. I never woke up. Not once. They evacuated the dorms and I lay in bed in a deep sleep.

    Oh, the college years . . .

    BTW–I’m with bluemoutainsmary–you look gorgeous! Maybe that eight-year-old keeps you young 🙂

  10. My oldest went to Occidental College–her dorm room was so ancient you could barely run a blowdryer, let alone a toaster oven!

    Big Red is heading to Colorado in the fall–I will be sure to add hide the toaster oven under your roommate’s bed to my everygrowing list of advice.

  11. I can’t believe that you have a daughter graduating in May. I love your sense of humor so much that I’m going to give my daugher your number so she can call you when she gets in a jam.

    Yikes, I can barely stand the thought of my girl moving across the country to Georgia. I freeze in terror just at the notion that I can’t get in the car and get to her fast. I secretly hopes she chooses a college closer to home, but I am keeping my mouth shut.

    Three girls? You are a lucky woman.

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