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I Knew I Forgot Something

PERSPECTIVES

By Sarah D. Kalloch

The infamous List began circulation in May. I received another edition in June; and by July, every nervous mother of every college first-year in town was making four hundred copies of The List and passing it out to friends, family, friends of family and families of friends, regardless of whether their children were eight, 18 or 28. No one knew who penned The List or who made the revisions in messy handwriting that appeared on later editions. What we did know, or at least were led to believe, was that The List, all four typed pages of packed prose, contained everything a college first-year could ever need. Judging from the last six weeks, we were all deceived.

The List was just what we thought we needed: a check list, a syllabus, a hand to hold just as we were letting go. I'll admit that armed with The List, we all thought we were studs. It truly was immense to the eye. I've seen some lists that have the obvious needs: sheets, computer, alarm clock, towels. I've even seen some flashes of creativity in lists that extolled the virtues of packing and shipping such things as flip-flops and Imodium A-D caplets.

But The List was on an entirely different plateau. It was divided into 13 lucky subsections: clothing, shower gear, laundry paraphanalia, medical supplies, linens, for the desk, for studying, for maintenance, appliances, for the wall, for storage, food stuffs and, finally, the ever ambiguous etc. The List pretty much instructed us to pack the entire contents of our home and that of the closest neighbor. Families in town began designating entire rooms, entire wings to hold the extravaganza of supplies needed to insure a safe passage from home to the wild college scene.

My mother truly believed that if she could find every last item on The List, I would be all right. Armed with Pepto Bismol and anti histamines, I, feeble Sarah, who has no allergies, would be safe. With an ashtray (for guests of course, as the list instructs) and four dozen hangers by my side, how could I fail?

My nervous mother spent the summer checking off all 174, actually, make that 173 items on The List: Mom let me unpack the athletic supporter after we received the third edition of The List, which made distinctions between male and female items. Only on the day of my departure, when we made a mad dash to CVS for anti-fungal powder, did she sit back, relax a little and begin to let her daughter go.

I've been in the jungle of Cambridge for over a month now. I am thanking The List everyday for advising my mother to buy four cans of deodorant and 400 pens. After all, I am so far from civilization that should I ever run out, I'd be doomed. Thanks to The List, I am the proud owner of my own stapler, staple remover and package of 5000 premium quality staples which would come in handy if I could remember where I put them.

At the young age of 18, I am in possession of a sewing kit including over 25 colors of thread, a thimble and a tiny pair of scissors. Of course, my wardrobe consists of two basic colors--blue and brown--and I'm not exactly an expert sewer: I got a B- in Home Economics. At least I can use the scissors to cut my hair.

My mother scoured five stores to find me a 10 color pen, and I'm not even a pre-med. I now use to it write letters to friends. I own a tack hammer and nails to hang pictures on the walls, which at Harvard is punishable either by death or organic chem, whichever you prefer. As I found out a few weeks ago, though, a tack hammer and a screwdriver make a mean can-opener, which is much more fun than the traditional Swiss Army knife.

Based on the false assumption that I do laundry and therefore actually have something to iron, I own one of those too. I've found my lint remover to be handy at sucking up saltine crumbs from strange crevices. I even have an 800 number in order to call home without being charged. I called two nights ago to assure my mother that I'd not been swallowed by quicksand, and a strange man with a low voice named Don answered. Luckily, I had the wrong number.

Still, when my mother calls here, she sounds rather confident that her daughter is doing well on her own. Little does she know the money and time I've spent on necessities The List didn't list: fishnet stockings for the Rocky Horror Picture Show, five sets of cards for one round of Egyptian Rat Screw (the game can get vicious), birthday candles and Entenmann's chocolate cake from Store 24 for surprise birthday parties and a $9 can of compressed air to get the microwave popcorn kernals out of my keyboard.

There was the construction paper to make red, orange and yellow flames in the bricked-up fireplace; sugar and a case of Coke for early morning consumption every day; four more weeks of underwear and socks (flips flops can't be worn in the snow). The List goes on. I'm glad I brought my coconut bra and grass skirt. Otherwise, Halloween would be a disaster.

The List didn't quite plan for everything, but not even I, now a veteran, would venture to write a different one. First, I want to see my brother go through the same check-list hell I did with my well-meaning mother. Second, I don't really think a true List exists. I have a feeling Rocky Horror isn't up everyone's alley. I suppose some people do wash and iron their clothes. And I'm sure that in the last six weeks, every first-year has found that he or she is missing something: home, friends, black lipstick. The List goes on.

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