Labor Day Blues: Moving On

By Sarah E. Murphy

I recently stumbled on the following essay I wrote a few weeks into my first semester at Bridgewater State College (now University), in the Fall of 1990, for one of Professor Maureen Connolly’s writing classes. I don’t remember the exact assignment, but it details the day my parents drove me to BSC. My dad was soon leaving to teach for the semester at Dublin City University on a Jasper Whiting Scholarship, and I was full of mixed emotions. Although I got an A-/B+, I see some grammar issues and other things I should have changed, but I left it untouched, in the voice of my 18-year-old self, for it brings me right back to that day. There are also unanswered questions – like how did I shower on my first day of class? And how did my poor dad find the time to come back the next day? 

When I think of the thousands of selfless things my parents did for me over the years, this was just another day in the life. Long before cell phones, or even luggage on wheels. Crossing the Bourne Bridge on Labor Day.

September is bittersweet. 

I woke up on Monday, September 3, after a restless night, knowing something about the day was different. My eyes focused on my barren walls, once covered with posters that were now neatly rolled, tied, and packed away. Then it dawned on me – it was my first day of college. 

I showered thinking, “This is the last time I’ll be showering in a ‘normal’ bathroom.” While I was working up a good lather on the top of my head, I contemplated the many bags and suitcases waiting in my room. Packing had always been something I just couldn’t grasp. I remember a trip to Canada years ago when I had packed about 18 pairs of shorts and not a single pair of pants. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the coldest summer Prince Edward Island had seen in years. My family drove for miles in our Brady Bunch station wagon, searching for a children’s clothing store. Thankfully, we finally found a thrift shop. 

Packing for college was no different. For some reason, I felt insecure about leaving my winter sweaters in my back closet unguarded, so I had packed bags upon bags of wool and cashmere. Dad’s face became more contorted with each bag I lugged out to him. Somehow he managed to pile it all in the trunk. Mom had been warning me about “overpacking,” referring to “Nina bringing winter boots to Chestnut Hill in September.”

However, I thought I had everything under control. So I said my goodbyes to my brothers and sisters, posed for a few forced smile snapshots, and with Oscar-worthy melodrama, embraced my beloved Great Dane, Sinead. Even though Bridgewater was under an hour away, I felt as if I were seeing them all for the last time. 

After what seemed like ten minutes on the highway, we pulled into the parking lot of Shea-Durgin aka “The Hill,” which was to be my home for the next eight months. My parents and I unloaded the car and carried everything up to Room 213 Shea. My roommate, her parents, and brother, and boyfriend were just about finished getting her settled, and after introductions, they went off to get lunch.

The three of us proceeded to unpack my things and make up my bed. The first hurdle I had to overcome was when my mom held up one of the packages I had searched high and low for (extra-long twin is rather hard to find in Falmouth), informing me I had purchased two fitted sheets. She assured me it was a simple mistake, but I chided myself for making such a faux pas after two years as a chambermaid. 

While I was busy arranging my jewelry on the dresser, I heard my mother exclaiming – half to herself, half to me – “Goodness, when do you find the time to listen to all of these tapes?!” Annoyed, I just shuffled earrings louder.

My dad then asked where my towels were so he could put them on the high shelf in my closet. Thus began the fruitless search. Ten minutes of, “I could have sworn,” and rifling through plastic bags. My parents found the whole situation quite humorous, saying I could use one of my wool sweaters as a towel. I, on the other hand, found nothing funny about it. I became more enraged as I noticed my roommate’s four fresh, clean towels stacked perfectly on her shelf. I fumed silently, trying to concentrate on happy things: Christmas vacation, spring break, summer!

After a lot of slamming of books and pouting, I decided to grow up, and realize things could be much worse. My parents once again reminded me I was 45-minutes away, and my dad could come back the next day with the forgotten items, like a wastebasket and more hangers. So after I closed the door behind my parents, and perhaps my childhood, I looked around my new room and decided where to hang my posters.

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