I knew it going in.
Christine was everything a dorm roommate’s mother should be, starting with being on time for college move in day. What’s more, she was armed with cleaning products. And while that was several months ago, the problem has only gotten worse, not better…
The day had not started well. I’d misplaced the keys to the van and in a panic had to unpack everything into the Subaru. Check in was set for 7:30 a.m. It was already 7:10 a.m.
“Mom! We’re gonna have to take two trips. Come on! We’re gonna be late!” my daughter, Nell, worried as we jammed the last of her things into laundry baskets and duffel bags.
“No big deal,” I told her while hip-checking the car door to force it closed. Everything fit, just as I said. Well, with the exception of one thing: Her sister.
“We’ll just tie you onto the top of the car,” I told Susannah as I jokingly began tying a rope around her legs.
I still can’t believe she thought I was serious. Sure, she’s undertaken some adventuresome challenges on our cross county trips to spread her father’s ashes when counting things like rock climbing a 1200 foot mountain or 30 foot tidal bore rafting in the Bay of Fundy. There was also the time I talked her into horseback riding in the Grand Teton Mountains and yes, she did fall off just like she said she would, but never would I tie her to the roof of a car.
“Mom! That’s sooo dangerous!” she cried, struggling to untie herself.
“Don’t be an idiot Susannah,” Nell scolded. “Mom would never do that. You’d dent the roof.”
There really wasn’t any room left in the backseat, but I didn’t want her to miss the day.
“Just lay down on the seat, strap yourself in as best you can, and I’ll put the duffels on top of you,” I instructed Susannah. “If we have an accident, don’t worry. You have a lot of cushioning!”
Some 45 minutes of grumping later, we were greeted in the dorm room by her roommate and her roommate’s very cheerful mother.
This is Christine. This is me, trying to look like Christine.
She’d arrived early. We were late.
Her nails were painted. Mine were dirty from gardening.
Her hair was done. Mine was in a pony tail.
She wore a pretty sweater. I’d thrown on a hoodie and pink tee-shirt.
What’s worse, her daughter’s side of the room was already made up in a beautiful white comforter with a string of lights, assorted fluffy throw pillows, a side table, and a cute rug. Oh and did I mention the brand new big screen TV and bright red vacuum cleaner?
Nell had forgotten her pillows.
“Hi, I’m Christine!” the Mom chirped, popping her head out from the refrigerator she’d been filling with groceries from Whole Foods. She’d already scrubbed down the cabinets.
“Hi!” I croaked, feeling like Humpty Dumpty.
I was suddenly glad to have splurged on a brand new set of pots and pans at Bed Bath & Beyond rather than shopping at the local Goodwill.
“Here. I got these for the girls,” I said with a little swagger as I set the shiny new boxes on the kitchen counter. I shot Nell a look that said, “Ha, told you so.”
She knew exactly what I meant. I’d told her all along that her roommate’s Mom would be the perfect Mrs. Clever who’d bake cookies and do the girls’ laundry and how I’d basically fail in comparison. I could just tell she was one of those Moms.
“Nobody’s mother is going to wash their clothes or mine for that matter,” Nell said with annoyance. “Don’t be ridiculous, Mom! She works just like you do.”
Fast forward a few months to last night while chatting with Nell on FaceTime.
“What’s in the foil?” I asked. She had “brought me” into the kitchen to make a cup of tea.
“Oh. That? It’s banana bread.”
I immediately knew something was wrong with this picture.
“You baked banana bread?”
“No, Daniella’s mom made it. She dropped it off for us today.”
“She did? She came all the way into the city to bring you girls homemade bread?”
“No, um, well, she was also dropping off our laundry too.”
“’Our’ laundry? What do you mean, ‘our’ laundry? You mean she did your laundry?”
Out came a sheepish “yes.”
I could hear Christine in the background giggling and laughing on FaceTime with her odaughter.
“Will you put her on the phone?” I asked. “I want to say hi.”
“You did their laundry? Really?” I said, not saying hi. “I haven’t done Nell’s laundry since she was 12. And you delivered it with a loaf of homemade banana bread? You’re showing me up here woman. What are you, the perfect dorm room mother?”
“Believe me, I’ve been called worse,” she laughed.
While making plans to sneak off for a cup of coffee at Christmas vacation pick up, I secretly hoped she’d bake me a loaf of banana bread too.