• What’s better than flying to see your son at his college town after not seeing him for such a long, long, long, long time? Nothing!
  • What’s better than the sound of  “thumpety-thump-thumps” as you wheel your carry-on bag filled with home-baked goodies down the bumpy ramp to board your airplane? Nothing!
  • What’s better than making that first eye contact with said son and getting that smile that fills a mother’s heart with a lovely, cozy feeling – like the warmth after a shot or two of your favorite schnapps? Nothing!

All is well with the world when you get to see him in person, feel that strong hug and see for yourself that he is healthy, happy and enjoying his life as a college student so far away from home.

My husband and I made such a trip just this past weekend, leaving the balmy warmth of our California home to travel to the chilly windy city of Chicago. Choosing to try to be hip parents, for the first time we ditched ordering a rental car (how mundane!) and decided to Uber our way to everywhere we needed to go for the weekend.

We ubered to our friends’ wonderful, welcoming home where we stayed. We ubered to our son’s volleyball matches on the University’s campus. We ubered to lively restaurants and bars. But the best uber trip was the one that took us to his off campus apartment he shares with 3 friends. With a curious anticipation we ubered to his place and finally got to see where and how he lived.

A large, stoic Chicago Greystone building with stacked apartments sharing a front lobby is where my son resides. As we entered his apartment it was apparent that this was the home of college-aged young men, as there was not a potted succulent or decorative area rug in site. 🙂

The residence was very large with a narrow hallway with offshoots of individual bedrooms and a sizable communal living room aka “The Whale Yard” that was decorated in a style befitting those that live for a “whale of a good time”  with buddies – enjoying “Miller Time” and playing video games. This room was pretty much taken over by three hefty non-matching couches, two of which were covered in an unsightly floral pattern that must have been left over from Archie Bunker’s living room. (“They were free!”) These were arranged in u- shaped format in order to face the altar of the large flat-screen TV. The wall was adorned with scattered posters paying homage to Oktoberfest and the “world’s most refreshing beers”. The very expansive fireplace mantel, upon which the TV sat, was covered with every possible video game platform available today, along with a multitude of remote controls and accented on the end with a shiny LED light disco ball. (“It’s not a true college experience without one.”)

The next stop of our tour was to my son’s bedroom and wow it was surprisingly tidy with just a smidgen of carelessly tossed items on the floor, desk and bed. (“Of course I cleaned up for your visit.”) I really liked that he had two large flags displayed on his bedroom walls. One, the Latvian flag –so happy to know that he is proud of his heritage – and the other, the state flag of California – so happy to know he remembers where he came from.

We carried on to the far end of their apartment which was the kitchen. Hmm, how do I describe this room? This kitchen was not exactly a thing of beauty or the heart of their home. It was more like a place of practicality – a designated spot to store non-descript boxes of pasta, cereal, bags of chips and sandwich bread. It also provided a space for their assembled trophy zone that consisted of a horde of empty beverage bottles proudly displayed on top of their cabinetry.

The stove was where I noticed larger baking pans were sitting. They were battle worn, a bit warped, blackened and left for some unlucky soul to clean as they were filled with some kind of burnt leftovers allowed to marinate in a substance that appeared to be water… There was a small table in the kitchen but it was covered with stuff not exactly kitchen oriented and I don’t think there were any actual chairs to sit at the table. The walls were bare, and except for the bottle collection, there was no décor to speak of. Although I did spot some colorful sneakers strewn about on the floor.

I didn’t look into their refrigerator. Some things are best left unseen. Ditto for their bathroom. When I started venturing that way down the hall, my son’s eyes looked at me with a shooting sense of alarm and then he slowly nodded “NO.” His pained expression at what I might witness if I stole a glance at what their bathroom looked like was enough to turn me around. (“You really, really don’t want to go in there.”) O.K. then…

So even though there were some off-putting areas of their living quarters, most of what I witnessed was fine. The place was, after all, where 20 year old college students were living. So I wasn’t really alarmed by anything…But then I heard about their on and off again 5th roommate, Jimbo. Apparently Jimbo had a complete disregard for privacy and basic sanitary conditions. He stole their food. My son explained they made several feeble attempts to lock him out but it didn’t work. Jimbo was persistent and hungry and he got through any barrier assembled by the roommates.

You see Jimbo was a squirrel. He joined them from the day they moved in August 1st and was only finally barred from raiding their food in November! These kids didn’t seem to mind that this squirrel was coming in through a torn screen in the window of their large pantry closet in the kitchen. They named him! I wince at the thought of what bacteria/fecal matter may have been on Jimbo’s little food stealing paws when he entered their pantry and kitchen. Yuck! They finally got the landlord to get rid of him by fixing the torn screen. But secretly, I think they miss his visits to their home. Good ole Jimbo was resourceful and wily. I guess they admired those traits in that squirrel.

Overall, I admired how our son had settled so nicely into his life in the big city- attending school, playing a sport, and managing the challenges of living off campus…It eased my mind that although not perfect, he was living a life that was still in fact amazingly great. So we left him to forge forward in his spring semester at college knowing all would be well. And I gained a new resolve to not worry so much…

After all, what’s so bad about a pesky rodent clawing his gnarly, dirty paws and gashing his large gnawing incisors which continuously grow throughout his too long life through a measly screen that stands between him and my lovingly crafted home-baked goods!!

Ai-Yai-Yai….

One Comment on “Welcome to Chicago- My Son’s Kind of Town…

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