April 17, 2008
Honey, you’re home!
Stop me if you've heard this one before.
Student gets into good university. Student obtains esteemed degree. Graduate flounders in unsteady job market; must confront the dreaded possibility of moving back in with her parents, Ima and Abba, whom I dearly love -- and come college, was all too ready to leave.
We didn't see it coming. After school I moved from Boston to Los Angeles with my then-boyfriend, landed a great job close to home and started referring to myself as an "adult." It worked: the gas and electric bills got paid, my grungy old Converse sneakers became a landing pad for sleek black heels, and we ate well enough to stave off scurvy.
Even when my parents decided to pack up and join me in Los Angeles, the glowing specter of independence still seemed to loom just a few exits down the freeway.
Then everything changed.
My relationship went crunch with the credit market -- I grew tired of investing subprime. It wasn't long before my hours at work were slashed, too, and I began to have nightmares of showing up at my parents' door with a suitcase.
It's not like they wouldn't understand. In fact, when I first called in January to sheepishly report that my job had been cut to part time and I'd need some help buying groceries, my mother suggested I move in with them "for now" with the excitement of a "Kadimanik" inviting her best friend over for a slumber party.
Which is what scares me.
Don't get me wrong -- my parents are wonderful. Growing up, they gave me a Solomon Schechter education; extra napkins in my lunchbox; lessons in ballet, piano and (reluctantly) driving; and the breathing room to move 3,000 miles across the country to start a life of my own. They even gave me eight months before moving into a ranch house a couple blocks down the street.
But something tells me that's the closest we should get. It's one thing to drive from Sherman Oaks to Encino on a Sunday morning to meet them at More Than Waffles; it's another thing to roll out of bed and meet them at the kitchen table.
Ah, the kitchen....
Where so many home-cooked meals might await. Where I could open the fridge and grab an afternoon snack that isn't ramen (an old habit that should have stopped with college tuition). Where I could enjoy unlimited access to Mom's kugel and Dad's matzah brei and, best of all, probably not have to lift a finger.
Adjoining the kitchen, the laundry room. I can almost hear Mom's casual offer, called out in a singsong key as she passes the extra bedroom I've taken over, to wash my white load if I'm too busy. That, and if I need anything at Barnes and Noble, she's heading over there later today. By the way, how am I doing on tampons?
Not having to vacuum. Not having to pay for cable. Not having to worry about dropping off a rent check on the first of every month.
As blissful as this all sounds, it's also the point at which the daydream ends.
Something fundamental has changed since the last time I lived under my parents' roof: I no longer need to be babied. And moving back in with them would mean I'd have to keep close watch on my independence skills to make sure they don't melt away under Mom's sure-to-be intense regimen of mothering.
Dating also poses a problem. Newly back on the singles scene, the last first-impression I'd want to make is a three-for-one deal -- sign up for me, get my parents for free.
Hanging out at "my place" would mean being prisoners of the only 175-square-foot space in the house where we could get any, ahem, privacy. Otherwise we could cozy up to watch TV on the living room couch, a special, limited-edition model that -- did I forget to mention? -- comes equipped with two built-in chaperones.
I'd want any serious beau to meet my parents after at least a couple weeks, not when he drops me off after our first dinner-plus-movie outing. And even if the mischpacha didn't come out to accost us at the car, the barely restrained refrains of "how did it go?" when I walked in would have me heading for that kugel-stocked fridge.
Still, the quandary remains: How do I make it in this dollar-hungry city alone?
The answer: Hire me. I'll do laundry. I'll vacuum. I'll even be your personal kosher chef and make you matzah brei in the mornings (my own signature version). Anything to stave off an onset of that increasingly common condition striking 20-somethings everywhere -- Childhood, Part Two.
If only they taught this stuff in school.
Rachel Heller is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.