Letting Go


I survived, and she would, too.

by Cherri Ellis

Move in Day

Yesterday we moved my daughter into her house at the University of Alabama. She is about to be a big sophomore, and she is done enduring the group living situation of the Tutwiler freshman girl’s dorm. Anytime you need to wear shoes both to and in the shower, there is room for accommodations improvement. She is living with three of her best friends in a miniscule four–bedroom, three–bath house right on campus—you can see Bryant Denny Stadium from their porch.

When I called the rental agency and asked how they could possibly charge this amount for an abode of that age and square footage, the woman told me, “What can I say? Your daughter chose a premium location.”

Of course she did. Besties, football, college life… It seems to be the perfect plan, although many a Judge Judy episode has started out with the same premise.

We started making purchases for her room early in the summer. The concept of anything she currently owned being usable seemed vaguely confusing to her, and she looked at me as if I had suddenly lapsed into speaking Chinese before turning back to her computer screen full of furniture options.

It didn’t take long before I folded like a cheap lawn chair and got on board the shopping train. I had no idea how many items were going to be deemed requisite for this space. Sample conversation:

“I need something to hold my jewelry.”

“You have something to hold your jewelry.”

“I don’t know if I want to use that to hold my jewelry.”

“It works great—I’m not buying you anything else to hold your jewelry.”

Two days pass

“Mom, look what I got to hold my jewelry.”

“It’s perfect! Good job, Baby!”

What can I say? If God had wanted me to not spoil the child he would have given her siblings.

Driving away from the house that afternoon, I was filled with a myriad of emotions. On one level, I was thrilled for her. It always feels good to be able to do your kid one better than you had. I was a little sad that she wouldn’t have the classic experience as I did of making orange crates serve as chairs, coffee tables, storage devices, stepladders, and at one point a cage for a trapped squirrel.  You’re supposed to be poor for a while. It builds character.

I told myself that security was not an issue, and that it made perfect sense for me to drive to Tuscaloosa a few midnights a week and silently walk the perimeter of the house just to be sure. I figured I should also post an electric fence notification and big “Warning: Rabid Pit Bull” sign somewhere prominent, like outside her bedroom window.

I realized what my mother must have felt like when I announced fresh out of college that I was leaving for a 12–week PACAF tour singing with a rock band to entertain the troops stationed in the Far East. I was 23–years–old, and any political unrest in any of the countries we were visiting never occurred to me—I had Sheena Easton songs to memorize.

For the record, we were a very, very bad band hastily assembled just for this tour. My best number was Bette Midler’s version of “Beast of Burden,” which I love to this day, but what I did to “What’s Love Got to Do With It” was nearly a crime against my country. Trust me though, to a bunch of guys and a few gals stuck in Kwangju—we were magic.

That we survived the tour was a miracle in itself. There was Cardell the drummer who worked days at The Chess King and had elaborate Rick James hair, Tim the innocuous bearded white guy on keyboards, Tony the classically trained singer who was married to my girlfriend, Russell the bass player who I never once saw sober, and Brent the lead guitarist who “over–believed” in his own star power. There was no tour manager. The drummer’s brother served as a sound engineer although he had zero experience or knowledge in that area. There was a fantastic amount of in–fighting, very little rehearsal, and much confusion as to how to navigate our clueless little group and massive amounts of ragged equipment through foreign airports.

Conditions in a few locales were pretty sketchy, and other local bands we would hear in clubs didn’t speak English but learned American songs phonetically. You would hear things like Donna Summer’s “She is Hard for the Money So you Better Eat Her Night.” We started amusing ourselves by subtly changing the lyrics to our own songs.  Cindy Lauper’s “Crime After Crime” was bad enough, but when Brent and I looked into each other’s eyes and belted out Heart’s power duet “Almost Paradise” as “Almost Hairy Mice” all pretense of professionalism was gone. When the final plane touched back down in the good old U. S. of A, I wanted to kiss the runway.  We had survived for 12 weeks, in 5 countries, with zero clue.

Leaving Tuscaloosa, we pulled onto the highway and I smiled. I had survived, and she would, too. Now someone keep me from driving down there and checking on her this weekend.

One Response to “Letting Go”

  1. Mark Anthony says:

    WOW! Kwang-ju. The last place I expected to see a reference to that would be in an E-zine in Birmingham Al. on Halloween night. On the other hand, when I was in Kwang-ju I never expected to be in Birmingham reading an E-zine on Halloween night. ‘Tis indeed a small world.

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