I’m writing and publishing a memoir. Find below a chapter titled, College:
I visited a Travel Agent and made a plane reservation to the Denver, Colorado airport and learned I could take a shuttle van to the campus in Fort Collins. Dad took me to the Pasco Airport and helped me check in two large suitcases. I requested to sit in the no-smoking section, clueless as to how profoundly pathetically grateful I’d be in the future to the people who fought for no-smoking flights.
Back before intense airport security, Dad walked with me to the gate. He carried my high school graduation present, a manual typewriter. I carried a purse and smaller bag full of backup clothes in case my suitcases didn’t arrive. We sat down and waited. Quietly.
A feeling of wonder emerged. Why wasn’t Dad hurrying back to the farm? My wonderment increased as it came time to leave. I gathered up my stuff and walked out to the plane. After boarding, I got seated and looked out the small oval window to see a silhouette of Dad standing in the airport, watching.
The only time I’d seen Dad watch me was during piano recitals, and even then he looked as though he was farming in his head. Although I was a cheerleader for two years, played on the volleyball team, and performed in school theater, I don’t remember Dad once coming to watch. But he watched, probably until after my plane left the tarmac.
Arriving at the Denver airport, I hauled my baggage through an airport and found the van that would take me to Fort Collins. The hour and a half ride came to a stop and I was dropped off near the CSU campus, with three other students. Before driving off, the van driver pointed and said, “It’s that way.”
The four of us stood there and started digging through pockets and purses for campus maps we’d received earlier in the mail. Staring at the maps, we were interrupted by a thin guy in a plaid untucked shirt, older than us but not too old, who ran across the street and asked if we wanted a ride.
Was this a joke? Absolutely not do I want a ride, I thought. I was trained never to take a ride from a stranger. Plaid Shirt didn’t even have a vehicle. How was he going to give us a ride? Was this a trick? Was he one of those guys who made a promise he couldn’t fulfill? Would he take us out to a deserted place?
“Yes,” blurted the tall girl with a massive pile of luggage. My mind stopped flying off on invented tangents. I was tired. Everyone else agreed to the ride, and I did too, figuring we’d all be together for safety.
Plaid shirt said, “I’ll be back in a minute. I have to borrow a car.”
A few minutes later, a station wagon rounded the corner and Plaid Shirt jumped out to help us throw our belongings in the back. We each told him the name of our dorm. He thought for a second, told us to get in and off we went. He said he was a graduate student.
Plaid Shirt drove around a campus the size of Burbank Farm, stopping at four different dormitories. I was the last to be dropped off and had time to mentally calculate that I would have been dead meat had I carried all my belongings to the dorm. Not that I’d make a practice of it, but taking rides from strangers wasn’t such a bad idea.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”— Hebrews 13:2
I checked in at the dorm and a girl wearing flip-flops walked me to my room. Flip-flops carried my manual typewriter. “That’s the cafeteria,” she said, after pointing to a large room on the other side of a windowed wall.
We walked through halls. “There’s the shared bathroom,” Flip-flops said as we walked past a swinging door. The dorm was cleaner than Mary Ann’s family’s dairy barn back home, but the layout was based on the same principle. Accommodations were specific to resting, eating, and getting milked, only I would produce knowledge.
Flip-flops unlocked the door to my room and said, “Your roommate moved in last week.” She put my typewriter near a student desk and I dropped my suitcases, purse, and bag near the empty unmade bed.
I dreaded having a roommate.
When sharing a room with my sisters, at about the time puberty kicked in and my face broke out with zits, their breathing (I called it snoring) put me on edge. By the grace of almighty God, when I was in junior high school, Mom and Dad added a second floor to the basement and gave me my own room. It was small, but heaven.
At college, we freshman had to live in a dorm, so there I was with a roommate because I enrolled too late to get my own private room. I unpacked my stuff and made the bed, thinking my roommate will probably come at a higher cost than the tuition, but it was a price I was willing to pay to get away from home.
An hour later, my roommate walked through the door. “Well, hi. I’m Leslie,” she said. “You got here. Good. I’m here early because it’s Rush Week.”
“I’m Cheryl,” I said and added, “What’s Rush Week?”
“During Rush Week, I visit all the sororities to see which one I want to join. A sorority is a house full of girls. They have lots of parties. We will be sisters.”
I nodded and smiled, threw in an “Ah!” My fatigued mind merely thought her chatter sounded suspect. A house full of girls sounded worse than a swarm of gnats on a blistering hot day.
Leslie told me about the sororities off campus and recruitment process. “Pi Beta Phi is the sorority I want to pledge to,” she said. I lifted my eyebrows as if the exercise would let the information into my brain. She continued, “But I don’t get the ultimate decision. The sorority girls pick who the new members will be.”
At the end of Rush Week, Leslie didn’t get into the sorority she wanted so she accepted membership into Chi Omega. Little did I know that later in life, I’d become a part of this screwed-up process of human approval, selection, and clique formation, not in college, but in church.
At that time though, I was weary and unable to carry on a conversation. Leslie then pointed to my Bible and Science and Health, which I’d placed at the bottom of a shelf in my desk and asked, “What are those books?”
I sighed, wishing I’d hid them better. “They are books I read in church, the Bible and Science and Health,” I answered.
“I go to that church, well not a lot, but my mom goes all the time,” she said.
Bemused, I found myself asking, “Where is the church, in case I want to go.”
She gave me directions.
Leslie was the best roommate I could have had. We got along, though we didn’t have much to talk about unless I wanted to talk about fashion and clothes. “I’d love to have your body,” she told me. “I’d buy all kinds of clothes, because any style always looks good on thin bodies.”
Her words fell to the ground like my bath towels. After living with Leslie for a couple of weeks, I asked, “Why do you hang up your bath towel in the room?”
Leslie looked at me and saw my daftness came honestly. “To dry,” she answered.
She said, “So I can use it tomorrow after my shower.”
“You don’t wash the towel in the washing machine?”
“Not after every shower. I reuse the towel, Cheryl,” Leslie explained.
The idea of reusing a towel was novel. I was raised to use a bath towel once and then throw it on the floor into a soggy heap. Mom washed every towel after one use. In a family of seven, Mom maintained stacks of clean folded towels from which we could pull a clean one to dry ourselves with after every shower. Mom sent enough towels with me to college so I could continue the tradition. I used a washing machine and drier in the dorm that required money. I did the math. Reusing a towel could save me money and time.
I observed Leslie. She did not appear to be suffering from the practice of reusing her towel. Her skin wasn’t falling off. Her hair wasn’t falling out. So, I began hanging my towel to let it dry for reuse, not in defiance of the family tradition, but because a better tradition existed for my new circumstance.