Thinking About Leaving Home
are trolling the aisles of Target in search of the requisite
We have our cart—which we have named René Descartes, in honor
of the scholarly nature of our shopping—and we are barreling
down on the composition notebooks/colored pencils/pocket folders/protractors
Linnea is a sixth-grader, so this is the year of her first
locker. She wants a locker organizer. I am optimistic at hearing
her use the word “organize,” since she’s never shown any particular
affinity for organization of any kind.
The locker organizers come in shades with names like Fuchsia
Future and Aqua Power. They feature little mesh pockets for
holding lip gloss and Hershey’s Kisses and erasers shaped
like VW buses. There is also a mirror so that the well-groomed
sixth-grader can check out her angles before going into homeroom.
Linnea also wants pajama bottoms since that is what her sister
and I wear around the house at night, and she has deemed this
cool. I am happy to still be considered cool, so naturally
I buy them for her.
Plus, these years of back-to-school shopping are kind of ritual:
They come home with all their stuff, and lay it out and look
it over, sizing up its usefulness as if it is Halloween candy.
If we go clothes shopping, they come home and run upstairs
with their Old Navy and H&M bags. A few minutes later
they return to put on a fashion show, swishing up and down
the living room rug as if they’re on a runway in Milan.
But there is something different this year.
The two big sisters of Madeleine’s close friends just went
away to college, and Madeleine is projecting hard into the
future. I can see it in the way she pauses before the clothes
trunks in the storage aisle at Target. (“I’ll probably need
something like this,” she says, “only not so ugly.”)
And Target has the answer for every college freshmen’s anticipated
needs—and more. There is a special line of items—with a designer’s
name appended, which seems to be the comme il faut of Target
merchandising—called Todd Oldham Dorm Room.
Todd Oldham Dorm Room appears in every department.
There are Todd Oldham Dorm Room bedclothes. And towels. And
lap blankets. There are Todd Oldham Dorm Room desk organizers.
And CD holders. And clocks that also hold snapshots. There
are Todd Oldham Dorm Room dishes. And an 80-piece kitchen
starter set. And caddies for carrying cleaning supplies. There
are Todd Oldham Dorm Room toilet brushes. And shower squeegees.
And, I’m not kidding, tile and grout brushes.
Let it be said that I have three degrees, and though I have
had many different experiences in a quite a few different
dorm rooms, none of them ever involved the use of a tile and
Madeleine seems captivated by all but the cleaning supplies.
She suggests that she and I buy shower caddies with handles
so that we can keep our stuff separate and bring it out only
when we need it, thereby avoiding clutter, but also enhancing
the feeling that we are living dorm-style and sharing a communal
bath. She doesn’t say this, of course.
We put the shower caddies into René Descartes, next to the
locker organizer, the pajama pants and the crush of school
I’m not liking what’s happening. My 15-year-old is thinking
about leaving home. She’s thinking about how liberating it
was to watch her friends’ older sisters pack up all their
stuff—much of it new, suited to new circumstances—and then
drive off to quaint towns in New England and central New York.
know, dorm rooms are small,” I tell her. “Too small for all
this stuff they’re trying to sell to parents sentimental about
their kids going away to school.”
she says, fingering a Todd Oldham Dorm Room accent pillow.
I was in a triple,” I say, wanting to underscore the
hardship and privation of dorm life.
I tell her about how my family got me there late so I got
only half a closet, the top bunk and the desk with the scratched
Formica. I told her about my peculiar roommates: the buxom
one who played Barbara Streisand records over and over, and
the other one who was a sullen Lutheran with rectal polyps—never
mind that we are sullen Lutherans too, except for the rectal
she says, “but didn’t you end up in a double with a roommate
who became, like, your best friend?”
I say, forgetting I’d told her this part, probably years ago
when I wanted to assure her leaving home would not be so bad.
but that was after 10 days spent with Buxom
Barbara and Fraulein Lutheran!”
days,” she sniffs.
well that can be quite a long time,” I follow her as she and
Descartes and her sister disappear into the Party Supplies
section. I can’t wait to see what Todd Oldham has in store
for us there.
I think Madeleine expects college life to be like some kind
of wholesome teenage idyll where the girls share clothes and
makeup, and the boys mind their own damn business. Where you
never have to choose between a keg party and studying, because
keg parties are so completely déclassé. Where the girls summer
in Falmouth and go by family nicknames like Pitter or Tibby,
and have orthodontia and Coach bags and their fathers’ credit
Or maybe I’m just afraid that her college life will be like
my college life. Which was enormously fun.
Which is why, for Madeleine, I’d prefer something slightly
less Be Here Now.
Something that involves the regular presence of pleasant supervisory
adults, the resident advisor, teas and service projects like
Habitat for Humanity. Something that doesn’t involve hitchhiking,
pot, coed dorms, Kirilian photography or tantric anything.
I can’t tell her any of this, of course. I’m not a total dim
bulb. But I am beginning to wonder if maybe Todd Oldham can
be of some help.
can contact Jo Page at