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Day by Day: The stuff of life just keeps on growing

Even as I write this, the empty nest that is our home is being re-feathered.

As I look around, that nest analogy is really getting all too real. You know how when you were a kid and you found a nest, how fun it was to see all the bits and pieces the bird used to build it, everything from twigs and string to labels off cans and pop-top rings? That's kind of how it looks around here.

Year one of college is over, or close to it, and here come our precious children with all their "stuff." It seems there is a lot more stuff than I sent them off with last fall. I know it's true because since the beginning of the month when they started bringing things back a little at a time "to spare us a big move home," I have watched as open floor space disappeared in almost every room in the house.

Piled in the living room waiting for summer residence is a foam mattress pad, several textbooks that are worth keeping (but will never be cracked again), dirty laundry in a basket and whatever coats were worn over the past few days. I've never understood my kids' aversion to hanging up their coats, but I suppose it's good that some things haven't changed about them.

Even though they have had an institutional cook for the past nine months, that doesn't mean the kitchen has been spared from invasion. It turns out that college cafeterias have no concept of decent breakfast cereal. You have to stock your own and it takes time and effort and several boxes before you find just the right one. And the rejects come home along with soup, a pound of butter and more ramen than anyone should ever consume.

Moving down the hallway, it is now necessary to turn sideways to make it past the several 40 plus gallon storage tubs I bought in hopes of stashing all the new stuff. Nobody seems interested in them. I take that back. Katie has used one -- for more dirty laundry.

The kids' bedrooms have sort of been no-man's land for the past several years but they reached new heights of foreign territory this weekend. I fully understand that nothing needs to be done immediately. There are people to see, friends to connect with and as long as you don't step on anything breakable on your way to bed, where's the problem? The best part of the bedroom mess is that it makes mine look good.

I had the best intentions myself of getting rid of my own clutter during freshman year but I didn't get very far. The first run at my closet yielded very little -- three shirts with grease stains and a few belts that would have looked good if I had a waist. I have trouble getting rid of clothes. They are kind of like food to me -- I enjoy them.

The bathroom is the worst. Our house is old enough not to have a master bath but new enough to have two doors to the one we have. That means, of course, that access is an issue, that and just what constitutes a reasonable amount of stuff on the vanity top.

I used to think I had too many bath towels but how quickly I forget. The average shower takes at least two and because they don't tend to dry easily when wadded up in a corner, backup supplies are necessary.

And we won't even consider what is going on downstairs. Suffice it to say, that if anybody wants to play pool this summer, they will have to do so while crouching on one of two futons. And that is only after clearing the table top of winter clothes, old notebooks, perfectly written term papers and a vast collection of hangers. Luckily we have the old van for those items that don't need to be stored inside.

But enough complaining. I'm glad they are back. Despite wacky roommates, unintelligible professors and news stories that made us wonder why we were paying for our daughter's education, it was a good year. And there is always September to look forward to.

They will be missed

As spring finally seems upon us, I like to think the new leaves and grass and buds are opening as a sort of send-off for two special women I knew.

First, is my aunt, Alice Schultz of River Falls, who died recently. She was 100 years old and lived every minute of it. She had a voice that was unforgettable, eyes that literally sparkled and a laugh that was the cure for anything that ailed you. She taught me how to eat that biblical fruit, the pomegranate, long before Martha Stewart knew anything about it. She loved life and I think she will love heaven just as much. I know they will love her.

Hudson lost Sandy Griswold this week, and it was way too soon. I did not know her well but enough to say that she was far from done when it came to her efforts on behalf of young people in our town. As a high school counselor and tireless community volunteer, she reached out to the kids who needed it most with compassion and real help. She was the ultimate woman of substance and style.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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