Nick flies the coop

#404 in a series of true experiences in real estate
September 2002, Hills Newspapers

My son Nick is moving this week, away from home for the first time. Nick and two friends will be living together in an unfurnished two bedroom townhouse in the Santa Cruz area, near Cabrillo College where they’ll be going to school.
Such a to-do, not so much by the kids, but by the mothers of the kids. We three mothers have been busily making lists, shopping, assembling and carting items we are sure our darlings will need to sustain life.

“They’ll need a vacuum cleaner,” Jessica’s mother said the first time we talked. “I don’t have an extra one, do you?” She went on to offer to take to the apartment all sorts of furniture: tables and chairs, TV, not one, but two couches, even patio furniture.

I said I’d send a toaster, pots and pans, silverware. And I said that I had already made a list of basic items and given it to Nick, although he hadn’t read it yet. “The kids ought to get together,” I suggested, “and decide what they want. This really ought to be their project.”

But the kids were busy doing other things. Several days went by before the soon-to-be roommates got around to meeting and, I guess, they read my list. Nick reported back that it was too complicated to coordinate what everyone is bringing.

“Jessica’s mom is bringing hecka furniture,” he said. “And Celisse’s mom says she’s going to Ikea to buy us a bunch of stuff. I don’t think you need to do much.”

But I was really into it by then. I’d been thoroughly enjoying reliving my own first apartment, the joy I’d had gathering the ingredients for living in my own place. And as I re-savored nesting, I’d opened up all my cupboards and found lots of useful items. Now I wanted to talk to Nick about each one. “Later, mom,” said Nick.

Well, ok, I’ll have to be patient with him. It is, after all, his move, his project, his life. But then

I moved on to foodstuffs.

“Nick,” I called several times a day, “I’ll put together some foods so you guys won’t have to buy them.” Also, “How about I pack some tuna, mayonnaise, mustard. And I just bought two boxes of Smart Start cereal on sale.” “Whatever,” said Nick.

As he drifted through the kitchen again, I had advice for my son. “It’s a good idea for you to have a tool kit. A hammer, screwdrivers, scissors and glue – you know.” “Sure,” said Nick.

Celisse’s mom called. “I have an old microwave the kids can have,” she told me. “But I’ll have to buy an ironing board. This last wowed me. Celisse must actually do ironing. Her mom was also going to Costco to stock up on paper towels, Kleenex and toilet paper. I said I’d send sponges, rags, laundry and dish soap.

Jessica’s mother called again. She’d been to see the apartment and found it “perfect”. “It’s within walking distance to campus and the bus is right there,” she told me happily. “Nice garden with hydrangeas. Clean carpeting. No dishwasher but their own laundry so they won’t have to haul their clothes to a Laundromat. Oh, and a farmer’s market on Saturdays!”

When Celisse’s mom drove her daughter down to register for classes, she saw the apartment, and she, too, gave me a rave review: “Quiet, immaculately clean,” she declared. “They’re so lucky.” She said she’ll go back on the day the kids will first be sleeping there, put away things, stock the refrigerator with basics. “Celisse doesn’t cook, so I’ll pack freezer containers and take them. All they’ll have to do is microwave them.”

When I reported this to Nick, he was, at last, openly enthusiastic. “She’s a good cook. That’ll be some good food!” Nick said, and grinned.

I kept up my prodding, just couldn’t seem to stop. Had Nick noticed where the phone jacks are located? Does he want me to get him a study lamp? Has he called the counseling office?

“Don’t forget to get a bus pass.”

“Here, take these phone cards, keep your phone bill down.”

“You know you’ll have to pay your bills on time. And keep the receipts.”

Occasionally, I’ve seen a little glimmer of housekeeping interest in Nick. “I’ll need extra contact lenses,” he said one day. And, on another, “Can you get me a new blanket, and some flannel sheets?” And, once, “I’ll need some tape for putting up posters, the kind that won’t wreck the walls.”

I insisted we talk budgeting. This was hard. Neither of us wanted to, and we didn’t know how to estimate how much he and the girls will be spending on food, utilities and incidentals. “I won’t be living in luxury like now,” Nick told me. (This is the same child who regularly opens the refrigerator and complains that we have nothing to eat.) (I didn’t say anything.)

“We won’t be eating $5.99 ice cream,” Nick went on. “We’ll eat beans, rice, veggies — stuff that doesn’t cost much.” (Still, I didn’t say a word.)

Nick thinks that $40 a week for his share of the food should be plenty. He’ll also have to cover items like razor blades and shampoo (I did point out).

A few minutes after our budget talk, I set to packing. I put in a box extra deodorant and toothpaste. I threw in hand soap, hydrogen peroxide and Band-aids. Also, Neosporin, Q-Tips, a big bottle of contact lens solution and, just in case, a few Pepcid AC tablets.

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