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Shelley Murphy

By Shelley Murphy

Recently, I learned the months from May to September are considered “Moving Season.”

It makes sense. Summertime sees incoming freshmen head to college, families relocate before the school year, and recruits start jobs in diverse cities.

For some, moving day is as magical as rainbows and unicorns; for others, it’s a struggle to survive—most often, I find, it’s a mix of both.

Moving requires planning, and I like a good organizational project; but strategizing my older son’s move to his college dorm proved tricky.

I was naïve and adhered to “helpful” lists of must-have items and illusory dorm deals. Before my son’s first day of class, I’d exhausted my storage space and learned a costly lesson.

Yes, a teen trading their childhood bedroom for a communal dormitory requires certain necessities, but not the copious quantities that retailers proclaim.

A bit wiser when my younger son left for college, I bypassed the merchandising madness and mocked advertisers declaring, “The 25 Bestselling Dorm Essentials for Freshmen.”

I recommend parents peruse must-have dorm lists with a grain of salt, preferably placed around the rim of a margarita.

Back in the day, I found five essential items that benefited my boys:

  1. A mix of extension cords and surge protectors
  2. An arctic air oscillating fan
  3. A basic toolkit (Truth told, upon moving out in May, my older son discovered the kit and said, “I forgot I had this.”)
  4. A twin XL mattress topper. The college issued two-inch plastic mattress belongs in an inmate’s jail cell, not a freshman’s dorm room.
  5. Shower shoes. The bathroom’s proximity is irrelevant—the floors aren’t for the faint of heart.

Every year, dorm move-in day is the hottest day of the year. It’s a challenge to keep calm when an already overwhelming day is exacerbated by the sweltering sun.

That said, parents may find it helpful to bring along these items:

  1. Patience
  2. Sense of humor (not dad jokes, but fun levity)
  3. Sunglasses/Kleenex (nonnegotiable)
  4. Refillable filtered water bottle
  5. Athletic shoes to scale stairwells while others wait in elevator lines stretching to the parking lot.

I empathize with parents planning, packing and preparing for a child to fly from the nest.

This summer, I count myself among this group, again.

I’m not sending a freshman off to college. Instead, my younger son’s employer is moving him to the Bay Area.

Prior to last month, I believed my moving days were behind me. But long story short, soon I’ll be back at the wheel of a U-Haul truck tweaking gigantic rearview mirrors and rigid cab cushions.

I’ve driven rental trucks dozens of times to move my boys back and forth. Most trips were unremarkable, except for the U-turn across a median that snarled traffic in a busy San Diego intersection.

My most memorable move was last summer—it was supposed to be my swan song.

After a backbreaking day of moving, I slid my tired sweaty self into the truck’s cab, turned the key and started the ignition.

As I drove down the street, my exhaustion morphed into elation.

I turned up the truck’s radio and rejoiced—it hit me; never again would I be that sucker (er, parent) bouncing down the freeway in the scorching summer sun hauling my kid’s cargo.

The time had come to trade my trucker hat for well-deserved manicures.

But, ah, never say never. This summer, as kids travel to college, I’ll reunite with my trucker hat and reenter the convoy, 10-4.

The countdown is on, and moving day is fast approaching.

Soon, I’ll be among the misty-eyed moms and dads weathering another heartwarming and heartbreaking milestone.

While moving day is physically arduous and exhaustive work, it’s not the toughest task a parent faces.

The most difficult struggle of the day is finding the strength to say goodbye.

For more than 20 years, Shelley Murphy and her husband have lived in San Clemente, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to Picket Fence Media since 2006.

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