Homesick

[Note: This is the first of a quartet of stories about autumn-winter 1979 at Lakewood Community College in White Bear Lake, Minn.]

Lakewood1At some point every child must leave home.

Right up there in “Passages of Life” Top 5 List: birth, first steps, first day of school, graduation … away to college.

I desperately wanted to leave home and live on campus during my first year at the University of Minnesota. But, after a dismal freshman debut—and much discussion within the Family Project over the ensuing summer about post-high school career plans (one of which was to work out West, Grand Tetons or Washington state)—Pop suggested that University was perhaps too much to chew off.

Maybe community college was the answer.

Enter Lakewood Community College in White Bear Lake, Minn. (pictured above left, now called Century College). There I could attend school and live away from home. I quickly warmed to the idea.

After the three meager journal entries that summer of ’79, autumn comes roaring back.

Tuesday, Sept. 11: “Wertheimer residence, White Bear Lake. I have been here for about two days now and have settled in as comfortable as possible—I have a terribly sore throat and my first night I had a slight fever which persisted most of the night.”

Finally away from the Family Project and I wasn’t just homesick. I was Sick sick.

Maybe the ’flu had been brewing days before, but I distinctly remember packing my belongings into the family car—likely Dad’s International Scout—and having them deposit me at 61 Pine Street, the Wertheimer residence, the weekend of Sept. 8th. En route, we bought groceries to tide me over the first couple weeks.

It was a strange feeling to be left somewhere without my own car. You see, during the summer Dad had helped me sell the Datsun to pay the college tuition.

On Aug. 24, I signed a check to Lakewood Community College in the amount of $204.50 for fall quarter. Four days later I made out another check to my future landlord, attorney Sam Wertheimer, to rent an upper-level section of his house in Mahtomedi, right on White Bear Lake. It had two bedrooms, bath and shower, galley kitchen and living room accessed by a sliding glass door at the backside of the house.

Monthly rent? $150. There’s no indication in the extant checkbook register that I paid him any kind of damage deposit.

September began with a flurry of textbook buying at the student bookstore, all toward an A.A. in Communications Technology (aka Print Production). That fall I took Art Structure with Ken Maeckelbergh, Basic Business Communication, and Typography with my degree-plan advisor and main instructor, Ray Bohn. I also took two electives, Introduction to Computers and Modern Literature.

The journal reports that Wednesday, Sept. 13, just before Thursday’s first classes, was a “rainy, sad, quiet day. The dripping of the rain making ripples on the porch boards awakened a sort of melancholy in me today…” so naturally I’d made a cup of coffee and wrote a letter to high school friend Theron Hollingsworth.

That autumn of 1979—my first time away from home—was the beginning of a new habit that continued for decades: painstakingly handwritten or typewritten letters to friends near and far. Since distance had become a factor, I learned to love writing and receiving personal letters. After enclosing a copy of my latest poem with the letter to T.H., I noted in the journal, “I hope he will write back swiftly.”

I paced my new living room, put an album on the record player and cleaned the kitchen. Of the two bedrooms I chose the one with the biggest bed, and which also had a side bathroom with sink, mirrored medicine cabinet and toilet, but no shower.

Mom called to say Skeeze had an urgent message for me. It’d been a long time since I’d talked with old friends. And I was feeling lonely. I’d call him before school started Thursday.

“Bright and early,” the journal states. “I must take a bus and face a new era in my life—hopefully a brighter epoch than previous times.”

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~ by completelyinthedark on February 21, 2014.

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