It’s the question most parents dread: Can we crash at your place for a while?
Late August phone call from my daughter, Meredith: “Mom, Dad, is it OK if Mike moves in for a couple weeks? Three weeks—tops.”
“What’s the deal?” Mike is her boyfriend.
“He’s coming back from New York to start grad school. He’ll be hearing about a teaching job at the same time; we want to see where he’s teaching before we get our place.”
“We guess,” we say. “Mike can use your brother’s room.”
Mike moves in, and the room evolves into a booby trap of his queen-size bed and tangled wires from his keyboard, TV, and computer. His coffee tables and leather chairs mingle with our daughter’s bookcases and exercise gear from her recent move home, converting our master bedroom into a storage locker.
We reluctantly share the family-room sofa with them and wear robes and coveralls around our house.
Recession. Teacher-hiring freeze.
Tripping over baritone saxophone, clarinet, gym bags, and giant textbooks in the dining room, we leave for work in the morning as they slam the snooze button on their alarm clocks one more time.
Retrieving their pots and pans from behind the living room sofa, they cook chicken curry at night as we head for bed.
We put away their shoes; they pile up coupons. We buy milk and bread and tote them home in plastic bags; they buy fruit and vegetables and carry them in burlap sacks.
She shares her homemade wheat rolls and home-canned peach and apple butter, pickles, and tomato sauce. She weeds and plants our fallow garden and lures us into her enthusiasm.
He shares his music: sensuous saxophone sounds and inspiring keyboard compositions. He invites us to his concerts.
They introduce us to The Daily Show and YouTube comedians and share their Blockbuster membership. They listen to our points of view.
He provides us with expert computer care and she, expert advice on choosing certificates of deposit.
They take us out for dinner once a month—Italian, Greek, Chinese, Mexican—and we all share stories about school, work, and life.
Twelve months later, late August phone call: “Mike got a teaching job, so we’re going to move! Isn’t that great?!”
“We guess,” we say.
Reprinted from Urbanite (March 2010), a smart, vibrant Baltimore-based monthly that explores the relationship between the city and those who live there. www.urbanitebaltimore.com