Hi Mom! I’m Home!


My children tore my heart out when my they left for college last fall. I would walk by their empty bedrooms and sigh. The pit in my stomach took up permanent residence. I cleaned my house and organized. My husband and I took a few trips. I kept up with the books I wanted to read, started writing, played tennis, skied, and worked out. Still as the days grew shorter, time slowed.

With the arrival of spring came renewed energy. I will have both children home this summer. My daughter and son’s leases don’t start until August 15th. My son tired of the party palace he and seven other guys rented the last two years. He is looking forward to a welcome respite with only one roommate this fall.

The easy move:

My daughter Courtney moved home last week from the CU dorms. She had loaded most of her things in her car and was scrubbing walls when I came to haul the big stuff. “Are you looking forward to living at home?” I asked.

Okay, there was mold growing in the dorm rooms and she complained about the continual noise every night. I heard all about the dorm food being “disgusting” for months now, so I anticipated an emphatic “Yes!”

Courtney replied, “It’s going to be weird.” After seeing my crestfallen face, she added, “I’ve been on my own all year, so it’s going to be a big change.”

The excitement isn’t mutual, but I guess that’s normal.

The stressful move:

My son Kelly took his last exam on May 4th. He had ten days to move home, but is a DJ and told me, “I have a couple gigs, so I’ll stay up here until my lease is up so I have a place to crash.” This sounded very logical to me at the time.

The following week I periodically called to ask if he needed help and he would respond, “No I got it handled.”

Saturday he called in a panic. He had spent the last day moving furniture into a trailer. I don’t think he anticipated how much time it would take to gather all the small stuff and clean. My husband Danny and I were out to lunch enjoying a hot sandwich on an unseasonably cold day with Courtney and her friend when we got the call. “Mom, I have to be out by 5:00! Four of the roommates have bailed. The house is trashed!” Danny and I had each driven a car, so we would divide and conquer.

I checked my watch and it was already 1:30. It would take us more than an hour just to get from downtown Boulder to Greeley and we had to stop home on the way. Late for an appointment, my daughter asked me if I could drop off her friend. Why is it whenever I am in a hurry, I get behind someone going 10 mph below the speed limit!

When I finally arrived home, Danny had already started collecting a load of cleaning supplies. While I argued that Kelly and his roommates had a vacuum, my husband ignored me and grabbed the Shop Vac from the basement. The last time I used it, dirt and God knows what else, blew up into my face. He assured me he had fixed the behemoth vacuum by emptying the dirt and then threw it into the back of my car.

Oh my God! When we arrived at the party palace I at once realized why he hadn’t wanted me to visit. Parts of the house hadn’t been cleaned for months. What am I saying! More likely a year! I greeted a familiar face in the kitchen. It was the mother of my son’s roommate I met freshman year in the dorms. Up to her elbows in filth, without rubber gloves, she stood scrubbing down sticky shelves. A shiver went up my spine.

We found our son upstairs in his leveled bedroom. Without a care of what anyone else thought in the house I yelled, “What the Hell were you thinking?”

Kelly told us the landlord stopped by and took pity on them. He will never forget the look on her face as she walked through the house. “She expressed disgust, shock, and awe. Every time she looked into a room her eyebrows rose higher and her frown grew deeper. She was not a happy landlord.” She gave them an extension until 9:00 A.M. Sunday.

I started in the upstairs bathroom which had been shared by four of them and not cleaned by one for a long time. I stopped myself and thought, “What am I doing?”

“Kelly, you do this!”

Their vacuum cleaner had been laid to rest two weeks ago. No doubt it had strangled on a beer bottle cap. I used my son’s noise cancelling headphones to run the deafening Shop Vac, and was now thankful Danny had brought it. Impressed with the sucking power of the machine, I tackled the hall and bedroom carpet. This had been a beautiful arts and crafts home built in the early 1900’s, but it had been eventually carved up and added onto becoming an eight bedroom rental. All the oak had been painted white and now thick black dust had accumulated on the baseboards and window sills. The previously white six-panel doors were tie dyed with finger prints. I got out the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and went into attack mode. My husband and son took the trash out to the dumpster and filled my car and trailer to the brim with the remainder of his belongings.

By the time I vacuumed the main floor, a foreboding feeling came over me. I had asked my husband to dump out the contents from the vacuum, but I’m not sure that he heard me. When I bent over the monstrous machine in the kitchen to flip the red switch, my fears were realized. “Boom!” It spewed a blinding black cloud of grime, hair, and dirt right up into my face. I had to blink to see again. The outside of the vacuum was now covered in a thick grime so I could imagine what I looked like.  I don’t want to think about what I was covered in. To say I was grossed out would be an understatement.

By the time we left, the dumpster was filled and various pieces of unclaimed furniture lined the alley. The roommates threw out some small appliances even I wouldn’t clean to reuse. Don’t worry. They never made it to the landfill. The dumpster divers were elbowing each other for all those fabulous prizes when we rolled out of the driveway at 8:00 P.M. and it was drizzling!

I knew my camera had been in my back pocket the whole afternoon and evening, but I couldn’t bring myself to use it. It didn’t seem like a Kodak moment at the time.

Saturday night I took the longest shower in recent memory. Danny brought me a cold beer which cut all the dirt and dust that had accumulated in my throat. I slept like the dead, not even having the energy to turn over all night.

Meanwhile, Kelly had to DJ. Then afterwards he planned to go back to the house and finish cleaning.

He arrived at our home before noon looking haggard, but relieved. He told me after DJing, he and one of his roommates worked until 4:00 A.M. They slept for 3 hours and then cleaned from 7:00 until 10:00 A.M. when the Landlord arrived. She surprised him by asking, “Did your other roommates come and help?”

“Nope. They never showed up.”

The landlord planned to hire a professional service to do the finishing touches and would charge the boys who didn’t help clean. According to my son, “This time when she walked through the house, she was in a much better mood.”

Kelly sat down in my kitchen and said that when he left his house for the last time, he stopped to throw a paper cup into the trash from his car. There were two guys picking through the dumpster. He asked, “Are you on a scavenger hunt?” The men replied they have five warehouses filled with items retrieved from the garbage. Renew, reuse, recycle!

Then I asked Kelly the same question I asked my daughter, “Are you glad to be home?”

“Yes! I am so happy to be home!” Kelly replied as he laid his head down on the cool and clean kitchen counter.

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