Monday, November 2, 2015

Grow Down

Moments after students arrive on college campuses everywhere, parents begin receiving alerts in their email inboxes that go like this:

"Nothing fights homesickness the way a thoughtful care package like THIS will from Mom and Dad." 

Or, "Don't let your college student be the only one who doesn't receive one of THESE fabulous care packages." 

Or, "Dial down the stress in your college student's day with one of THESE thoughtful care packages."

Thoughtful care packages are pictured ranging from the modest (cocoa packets and granola bars) to the extravagant: organic brain-boosters, gluten-free fruit and nut assortments,travel mugs, popcorn, energy bars, clothing, K-cups, trail mix, etc.

There is always an 800 number. There is always a deadline. There is always an extended deadline.

And what do you mean, your college student doesn't have a Keurig?

Get him one.

For God's sake. 

It's part of being a grown up to be thoughtful. It's part of being a parent to twitch with the feeling that every parent is caring more thoughtfully for their faraway student than you are.

In related news, the other day, I received a greeting card from my friend, Jane. On the front, it said:  "Don't grow up, it's a trap."  I like this message so much, I took everything off the refrigerator door and placed it there by itself.

In this spirit, and because Halloween was approaching, and because I miss our grown-up children most in the holiday months,  I hung up my writing for a day last week and spent most of it assembling a gift box for our college person and his housemates. 

They're veterans, all seniors. They aren't especially homesick, they aren't inordinately stressed. They're just young guys who have a growing awareness of the real world that will come with the spring, and a 24/7 appetite for fun - still. 

There was nothing grown-up about this box; the only healthy thing I sent was a surprise.

I lined it with a vinyl Halloween tablecloth covered with ghosts, skeletons and the word "boo." Inside I placed three dozen just-baked cookies, glow-in-the-dark wands with skeleton heads, several plastic spiders, and a gigantic bag of mini candy bars.

Then I went to Dunkin Donuts and bought four gift cards. Then I went to a card store and bought the most juvenile Halloween cards I could find, with pictures of cats, and pumpkins and witches on the outside and phrases like "Have a frightfully Happy Halloween" on the inside. I slipped a gift card into each one and taped a plastic spider to the outside envelope. I tucked these in last.

I brought it to the UPS store and filled out an address label.

"So, contents?" asked the clerk, who has sent things from me to this address before.
"Halloween items," I said.
"So, like candy and stuff?"
"Exactly. And some toys, too."
"That's awesome," she smiled.

I sent it off and drove home picturing these twenty-something guys as they unwrapped the box, laughed at the spider cards, ate the cookies and peeked at their surprise coffee cards.

"This. Is. Awesome," someone would say.

But, I'm pretty sure my experience was Way. More. Awesome. 

And, I'm pretty sure I will find new ways to grow down and find other grown up people to take with me. 


  1. You rock. I think my son might fall down in a dead faint if I did this.
    Which is exactly why I should!

    1. Agree very much. GO for it.
      It. Will. Be. Awesome

  2. Aww! That's so sweet of you! I'm sure your kids were thrilled!

    1. Thank you, Estelle! I think the coffee cards and spiders were equally thrilling.

  3. Who doesn't love a fun surprise? Listen, I'm 53 and I would be thrilled to get a care package in the mail! How fun for you AND those boys.

  4. I agree. I'm going to start dropping hints.

  5. I absolutely love this. This would have been just the kind of surprise I would have loved in college - or any day!! :)

  6. I read your article titled After August. I could not figure out how to comment on it, so I came here. I just graduated my oldest this past June, but she has no plans on moving out anytime soon. I wanted to let you know that I live in Cleveland. One program that teaches inner city children musical instruments is less than five miles from my house. Your daughter should settle in fine here, its a great area to be!

  7. Kate, thank you for visiting. Our daughter has thrived there, between her teaching and work with area orchestras. I plan to spend a lot of time visiting, and I love the things that are springing up. It's really nice to hear from someone that close to the area.