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College Christmas Break

Once upon a time, colleges didn’t evict students from dormitories three minutes after final exams. Back in the Dark Ages, Hubby and I stayed until the following Monday.

Eventually, some grinch discovered that supplying extra days’ heat for 30,000 students spoiled the university’s merry Christmas. College officials also realized that multitudes of sleep-deprived, de-brained students + 24-hour blocks of free time equaled … excitement.

In the early ’70s, though, they assumed we couldn’t wait to go home.

Right.

Sure, we’d missed our dogs.

If we’d hacked with colds, cough syrup and aspirin were blocks away instead of steps. We anticipated parents smearing us with love and Vicks® VapoRub®.

We’d languished without Mom’s cooking. Meals with fewer than 500 people might be nice. Plus, a refrigerator of free food would be at our disposal.

Free laundry, too! Mom might reintroduce us to clean clothes, as opposed to those sanctified by optimum time at the bottom of the hamper.

Add Christmas magic, and most students wanted to share the holidays with family.

Just not quite yet.

Having been chained to books, typewriters and labs, we needed to celebrate. Even our nondrinking Bible study required a two-day party.

We snarfed Christmas cookies by the bucket and played Monopoly all night. Only one guy owned a car, but 13 of us jammed into it, rolled down windows, and sang Christmas carols at the top of our flattened lungs. At stoplights, we emptied the car with Chinese fire drills.

Who needed sleep?

Besides, we comrades in the trenches of academia soon would part. For couples, December and January stretched like a forever, empty tundra.

Hubby’s long-haired college days, before the Christmas Break haircut.

During that long-hair era, guys dreaded welcome-home haircuts. We girls combed bangs out of our eyes to please our moms.

We loved our parents. But they would expect us to talk to them. To hundreds of relatives. We’d repeat our majors and future plans a gazillion times. If we didn’t have any, we’d have to make them up, quick.

Worse, our families went to bed early. At the crack of dawn, they took showers and slammed doors so a normal person couldn’t get proper rest.

Parents would expect help with the dishes. Why not summon the fairies who had done that all semester?

Ditto for putting gas in the car. Whatever happened to “free”?

Sigh. How had we lived at home so long?

After a 48-hour party, though, a 10 o’clock bedtime didn’t sound so bad. Eating a nutrient or two might be nice.

With the arrival of a station wagon loaded with delighted smiles and hugs found nowhere else on earth — well, Christmas break might be worth the sacrifice, after all.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How did (do) you celebrate Christmas break?

Recovering Neatnik

Those who know me best — especially my husband — do not believe I battled neatnik neurosis during my childhood. Sharing a bedroom with my sister, who suffered from chronic clutteritis, I developed OC tendencies in self-defense. My dolls stayed in their bed — cute, clean and quiet — until I wanted to play. Stuffed animals lined up in military order on the bed. I liked clean, shiny, bare surfaces, including floors, bureaus, and walls. As a teen, I kept my organized closet full of freshly-ironed clothes.

Life in an Indiana University dormitory cured me. Forever.

Perhaps my newfound maturity added to my messy success. Perfect order seemed less essential when I had to choose between going out Friday nights and cleaning my room or doing laundry and ironing. Besides, nobody at college had ever heard of an iron. Some had never heard of laundry.

I also credit much of my lifetime recovery to my three children. Gifts from God, they drove my neatnik tendencies away forever. No clean, shiny, bare surfaces appeared in our house for a couple of decades.

True, a period of danger ensued when they left home. Without their loving, anarchic presence, I might have succumbed once again to this terrible affliction. But they loved their old mom and, out of pure concern, left behind sufficient junk to defeat my tidy demons.

Now my grandchildren have joined their parents in concern for my well-being. The spare rooms bulge with toys I gave away 15 years ago, then re-bought at garage sales. An inflated monkey I purchased for fun days at the beach then hid to keep my grandchildren from fighting over it. Stacks of free cereal box books. A fuzzy Frosty the Snowman and Petey the Penguin, still in their 70-percent off package, bought to wiggle, jiggle and delight my grandchildren this coming Christmas. Or maybe they were supposed to thrill the kids five Christmases ago?

Even more touching, my in-laws joined in the fight to end my obsessive-compulsiveness forever. Not long ago they visited us, bringing my husband’s childhood scrapbooks and his favorite deer farm drinking glass, preserved from those exotic vacations in Hayward, Wisconsin.

With all this family support, I won’t see clean, shiny bare surfaces until heaven.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you a neatnik or a clutter queen (king)?