With many schools in session, and with many kids getting ready to head off to college (most already there) I thought I would share some of my experiences when my daughter Allison went off to college (University of Mary Washington). My daughter started college in August 1997. The school she choose was about 50 miles away from home. There was never any doubt she was going to live on campus. She was close enough that we could get to her very easy if needed and she could get to us, or come home for weekends when she wanted. She was happy and so were we.
Housing put her in a dorm room which she was going to share with 2 other human beings. My daughter up to this point had never shared space with anyone on a regular basis. I remember when she was filling out the student profile, the questionnaire asked pointed questions about her, her habits, likes and dislikes. I watched as she claimed to be organized as she filled in the form, and laughed inside. Giving Allison credit, she was quite honest about her likes and dislikes. But in other areas of the form (like how neat she was) she just plain lied, claiming to be neat, and my lovely daughter was anything but neat. Even after hearing me laugh out loud at her response, she stayed true to her answer that she was “neat.” Clearly the folks that work in the housing office of colleges have a ton of experience with weeding out BS.
Allison was hooked up with 2 of the finest young women I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. One became a Doctor (Chrissi), the other a world traveler (Casey), my daughter for those that haven’t read many my post’s has gone on and gotten her Masters in Education, and is now the English Department Head at the school she teaches. To this day they are still the best of friends, they are in almost constant contact, and share all the important events, of their lives, with each other. All three of them were exceedingly studious and well mannered. But I swear not a one of them had a neat bone in their bodies. I will address the lack of neatness in a different post. Let’s say concessions were made for me.
What I really wanted to talk about in this post is when Allison came home for a weekend. In honesty Allison came home on a fairly regular basis, but not so much as to give up any of the independence she was gaining living in the dorm. Weekends at home always included laundry (well 95 pct of the time), and family time. Of the 3 ladies living there together Allison’s home (ours) I believe, was by far the closest to the school, and soon the 3 of them would visit for the weekend. It wasn’t long after that Kim started to join the group of folks visiting the homestead for the weekend. Let me be clear here, the gathering at the Hamilton’s wasn’t because we were great hosts (though we were), or that we had a big house (it wasn’t), or that we served the best meals (those we did serve were great), one of the prime reasons that the Hamilton’s were visited so often was because we lived so close to Alexandria Virginia (old towne in particular) and Washington DC. The kids would come to visit so they had a crash pad for their visits to these locations. We also had a policy, that if you drank too much, I would come get you, there would be no questions, no explanations needed, and no yelling or screaming, and no lectures in the morning. We just wanted the kids to be safe, and realize they could play and be safe as well. Being honest the kids never called for a ride home, they truly believed in the designated driver and it worked. Also being honest, you were given no pity if you had a hangover the next morning, which was extremely rare.
Over time the group that would come to visit grew and grew. After Kim started joining the group, Keith and Charlie became fixtures on these weekends at the Hamilton’s. And this became the core group Allison, Chrissi, Casey, Kim, Keith and Charlie. Steph and I loved it. Over the 4 year period that Allison was in college we hosted weekends at least 12 times. The smallest group would be 3 the largest group we hosted over that period was 10 for sleep over purposes and 12 for a meal (more than once), but generally it was 5 or 6. But it needs to be said that we were honored by their visits. The fact that they felt at home, and that we treated them like family made these visits so much fun for all concerned. I am going to speak to meals in general and two specific group meals.
I also will take a moment to define the sleeping arrangements. Our home in Northern Virginia had, 2.5 bathrooms, 3 bedrooms, one ours, one Allison’s, the guest room had a brass trundle-bed, and the den had a couch and lazy boy recliner, the living room had a couch and the basement had a hideaway. On the night we hosted 10 for the sleepover, we had every conceivable space plus a couple sleeping bags taken. It was amazing. The night before, they must have gotten back between 230a and 3a. When I got up at my normal time it was no later than 7am. I made a pot of coffee and took it out to the back deck to relax. Walking thru the house was an effort avoiding all the corpus’s laying about. I only waited an hour before I started cooking breakfast for the masses.
When invaded (when the kids came to town) I started cooking breakfast at 8am everyone knew this, and as I started, I would get a ton of help. The morning that we served 12, the menu included: eggs cooked to order, bacon, sausage, hash brown potatoes, French toast, regular toast, juice, milk and coffee. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it. Now we are going to talk about the sheer quantity of food these kids consumed on this particular morning. We went thru over 3 dozen eggs, 3 lbs. of bacon, a pound of sausage, because I don’t know how to measure the amount of potatoes, let’s say (for purposes of discussion), a crap load. We also consumed 2 loaves of bread either toasted or French, 1.5 gallons of juice, and 1.5. gallons of milk. Then there was the coffee, I suspect we must have made 5 pots. If truth be told I suspect a couple of the guys were still hungry when the meal was done. It was a riot of fun cooking for the starving hoard. But let me also say, that the kids were as polite and as nice as can be. They volunteered to clean the mess and they did a great job. They were appreciative of the effort and very thankful. By noon they were out of the house. If we (Steph and I) knew they were coming back for dinner, the kids were timely in their return. This was the single largest meal we served during Allison college days. As I said earlier normally we only got 5 or 6 for a weekend. When Sunday afternoon came, the kids were scrambling to finish laundry, and picking up after themselves. I don’t remember the time when the kids left a real mess behind.
Now I am going to talk about one of the very best dinners that Steph and I hosted for the kids. It wasn’t the largest; there were only 6 kids plus Steph and I. We had cooked dinner for more, but most of those suppers were cookouts, serving the normal cookout meal; hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, sometimes corn on the cob, salad fixing, sodas and milk, milk was a mainstay, and we come to have on hand at least 2 gallons when we knew the kids were coming.
Now getting back to the meal in question. Steph is a wonderful cook, and as she has matured she has become even better. Italian food has always been one of her specialties; if you didn’t know better you would think she is part Italian. The menu was quite simple for this meal; salad, bread and Lasagna. Steph made her own sauce for the lasagna, and it took all day to prepare. Per normal if the meal is to serve 8 she cooks for 12 or 14. In this case it was the right thing to do. Steph made two pans of lasagna. Each pan was 12 x 18 x 3, so we are talking large amount of Lasagna. Normally one pan would be sufficient for a party of eight. But let’s not forget that six of the 8 were college kids, kids used to campus food, at campus facilities (several steps below a military chow hall), served by campus employees, and cooked by someone only interested in getting the meal over. Also keep in mind that this was probably the 1st time that Steph really pulled out the stops for a meal for the kids. I had met Charlie and Keith, and both are nice guys, both are still part of the core group of friends; both have gone on to be successful. Charlie teaches and while I am not 100 pct sure I believe that Keith also teaches. Anyway about the meal! One pan of lasagna should have been enough, but it wasn’t. LOL LOL The ladies each had a nice salad, bread and a single serving of lasagna. That single pan would have made 2 complete meals for the ladies, but add 3 guys to the table (I am adding myself to the guy part) and the one pan wasn’t enough to serve us. I don’t know how much they (Charlie and Keith) ate, but I stopped after the 2nd serving of lasagna. When Charlie and Keith were done, Steph and I barely had enough for a snack later, there was no salad left, and the bread had long since bite the rock. I will admit that I probably ate more than my share of the bread, and I will take the fifth from this point forward.
But once the meal was complete, cleaned up, put away, and garbage out, Charlie disappeared, then Keith disappeared. Sometime later I went out on the back deck, and while standing there I heard a slight noise. Charlie and Keith were laid out on the lawn, arms spread wide, starring into the moonlight night. They had ate themselves unconscious. Allison had one of the cutest saying when she was a child and ate too much, she would say “she was having a food baby!” I truly believe both Keith and Charlie felt the same way. In the years that followed I don’t believe I ever saw them eat like that again, don’t get me wrong they consumed a ton of food at our house, but never again to the “food baby” extent.
As usual I have consumed way more of your time than I had intended. And it would appear each time I write I have a “food baby” of sorts. Thank you for taking the time to get thru this post. I do appreciate it, as I appreciate your thoughts and comments. Please take care, Bill