Beth Dolinar

Column Beth Dolinar

Beth Dolinar has been writing her column about life, both hers and the rest of ours, for over 20 years. When not on the page, she produces Emmy-winning documentaries for public television, teaches writing to university students, and enjoys her two growing children.

Dorm shopping not like it used to be

Dorm shopping not like it used to be

July 18, 2013

For weeks now, ever since he was accepted at college, our son has been getting letters about dormitory linens.

“The beds are longer than the beds at home,” the fliers say, “and your sheets will not fit.” The envelope always contains a little catalog that offers dorm bedding in all sorts of colors and patterns.

Now, I can think of more pressing matters than the blanket not covering my son’s feet (like, say, the tuition check is coming due), but what the heck. We added twin XL bedding to our list and headed out to outfit a dorm room.

The college sent a list, too. One page listed the things he’s not allowed to bring, including hot plates, firearms and puppies; and the things he must bring: notebooks, pens and deodorant. And then there was the list of optional items, including gaming system, which just doesn’t seem right, the suggestion coming from the university.

And so with list in hand, Cooper and I walked into our local big-box bed store and grabbed a cart.

“I think we’ll need two carts,” he said, and I knew I was in trouble.

Not to dwell in nostalgia, but my freshman-year shopping trip took place not in a store but in my bedroom. I took the pillow and bedding from my bed, the alarm clock from the dresser, some wire hangers and most of my clothing. I put all of it into a couple of cardboard boxes, helped my dad load them into the car, and off I went to start my next chapter. After unloading everything, the dorm room still looked pretty much like an empty dorm room, stark and gray and utilitarian.

That’s not what freshmen from the class of 2017 have in mind. As we pushed our carts through the aisles, Cooper stopped to consider this product and that. Dishes and flatware? No, that’s what the meal ticket is for. Area rug? No. Remote speaker for his iPod? No. My no is awesome and terminal.

Cooper spent extra time at the pillow display, trying orthopedic foam pillows of every shape and size. He was becoming attached to a $145 model. He settled on a $30 version.

Unlike me when I started school, he already has his roommate, having connected on Facebook. They’ve been talking about how they’d outfit their room. From the sounds of things, their dorm will be nicer than my first apartment. It will have a TV and a small refrigerator.

Still, Cooper’s not a gimme kid. Passing the towels, I said, “You’ll get the old ones,” (which by the way will spend the entire fall semester on the floor), and he shrugged. He went for the smallest shower caddy (I had a little plastic bucket), and didn’t even glance over at the modular shelving.

Oh, and we needn’t have worried about the extra long beds. There was a vast selection of dorm bedding, all in XL twin.

The 20-percent off coupon must have brought out all the dorm shoppers, because the place was full of parents and teenagers, most of them mothers and daughters. Decking out a daughter’s room must be a much more elaborate and expensive task, because one duo blocked the bath aisle, probably lobbing loofahs and magnifying mirrors into cart No. 3.

As we rounded the bend toward the checkout lines, we passed the display of water filters. Cooper had the biggest pitcher in his hand, a $40 model.

“That will never fit in your little fridge,” I told him. He stood there, looking at it with a gleam in his eye. I realized it was the gleam of the new homeowner. He had a space to fill – his own half of 216 square feet – and the possibilities were endless.

“You’re right,” he said. “I’ll wait to see what the dorm water tastes like first.” He’s a smart boy.

Having finished the shopping, we headed into the checkout line. This was going to take a while. The mom and daughter ahead of us had four carts full.



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