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Spare underwear to spring break

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, March 7, 2007

In kindergarten, you brought your teacher a plastic baggie containing an extra pair of underwear, you know, just in case you had an “accident.”

Back then, you could “read” “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak before you could actually read, because your mom had read it to you as so many times as a bedtime story that you memorized every word. You even knew exactly when to turn the pages.

You also knew exactly what to call your stuffed animals. Your incalculable creativity inspired you to name them in accordance with their animal nomenclature – “Bear,” “Pup” and “Puppy” were amongst your special friends.

But even “Puppy” couldn’t console you when you realized that Santa Claus did not, in fact, lug your K’nex set down the chimney and that Rudolph was not the one who nibbled on the carrots in the kitchen; your dad was.

A few years later, you voraciously read the Boxcar Children books, and afterwards, you no longer wanted your comfortable red brick house on Maple Street; after all, you’d rather have been best friends with Benny Alden in an abandoned train car any day.

In those days, you ate your ham and cheese sandwich out of your Power Rangers lunchbox while you sat at your school desk that you covered with a checkered red oil cloth. And your mom wore the lunch-mom badge every other Thursday. You blamed the public school religious education kids who used your classroom on Saturday mornings every time a Hello Kitty pencil went missing from the inside of your desk.

In D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education, of course) class, you learned to “just say no” to drugs. And in social studies class, you memorized the 50 states in alphabetical order, with the aid of one of those ever-annoying, couldn’t-get-it-out-of-your-head-if-you-beat-yourself-with-a-bat songs.

You also loved the song “MMMBop” when it first hit the airwaves, but once you discovered that the Hansons were in fact three boys, you pretended to detest it; after all, hating the song had become the cool thing to do. You could never admit that whenever “mm bop, ba duba dop / ba du bop, bad u dop” radiated from the radio on your way to school in your mom’s minivan, you fancied singing right along with Isaac, Taylor and Zac.

One time after your mom dropped you off, you realized that you forgot to ask her to sign the permission slip for the class field trip to Washington, D.C. You then forced your trembling hand to forge her signature.

A few years later, your hand trembled again, this time as you spun one of your parents’ old bottles of cabernet on your basement floor – your first game of Spin the Bottle. Your first kiss followed.

So did your first heartbreak. Your heart sank through that same basement floor not long after, when the object of your affection dropped the one line that has been known to turn perfectly sane people into potential bridge-jumpers – “I just want to be friends.”

A couple years down the road, you became the envy of your friends when you acquired your ever-coveted driver’s license; you carted around more kids than you had seatbelts. And you owed it all to the man who conducted your road test – thank goodness he didn’t ask you to parallel park; then you never would’ve passed.

Two years later, you still couldn’t parallel park, but you could buy cigarettes. You bought some at the local Shell gas station on your 18th birthday, even though you didn’t smoke (clearly, D.A.R.E. taught you well). You oozed with coolness when the sign that said, “You can’t purchase tobacco products unless you were born on or before (insert date)” read your birthday.

You bought your first issue of Playboy on that excursion too. You hid it under your mattress, but your mom found it anyway. Suffice to say, she was not pleased.

Not long after, you left your red brick house on Maple Street and moved in to a dingy dorm with non-modular furniture. You began to live on your own much like the Boxcar children did before they were rescued by their rumored-to-be-evil, but actually-not-that-bad grandfather. And your parents couldn’t confiscate your porn.

My point? You’ve come a long way since your kindergarten days of hanging your Starter jacket in a cubby hole and sitting Indian-style on the “magic carpet” during storytime.

Well, not exactly. Over Spring Break, you might find yourself on a beach in the Bahamas, and after you’ve had a little too much Sex on the Beach (the cocktail, of course), you might feel that warm sensation otherwise known as an “accident” dribbling down your leg. Whoops.

But regardless, you’re older now. “Accidents” – although they have been known to afflict college-age folks – are no longer acceptable. And your Migration, Education and Assimilation: Three Forces that Built America professor surely didn’t list a spare pair of underwear as a requirement in the syllabus.

But she does want you to finish the semester – i.e. make it back to South Bend alive.

While Cable news feasted on the story of Natalee Holloway when she disappeared in Aruba in 2005, those who knew her were devastated. After all, perhaps she had once been an uber-lovable Santa Claus-believing, Boxcar Children enthusiast too.

You work hard, calculating derivatives and filling up blue books. You undoubtedly deserve a break. But don’t forget that you’ve lived through a lot. And that you have a lot left to live through – more books to read and more heartbreaks to endure. And maybe one of these days you’ll even learn how to parallel park.

So be safe next week – in whatever cesspool of sin you happen to be swimming.

Liz Coffey is a senior American Studies major and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy minor. Her column appears every other Thursday. She can be reached at ecoffey@nd.edu

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.