Archive for Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Chaotic stability

Briefly being a boomerang girl

July 2, 2008

I hate to admit it, but I'm a boomerang kid.

I'm one of the estimated 80 million young adults of my generation who has earned that nickname because of their tendency to move back in with their parents sometime after graduating from college.

However, the circumstances surrounding my reluctant trek back to parent land are a bit different from those of my counterparts. Let's just say a bad roommate more or less forced me to hang my head and run back to Mom and Dad temporarily, but the term "move in" isn't exactly correct.

I'm living out of a suitcase with my entire life packed up in boxes in their garage, and I've already signed a lease for a new apartment. By the time it's all said and done, I'll have invaded for only two and a half months.

As I sit here a mere week away from moving day, I reflect back on my short stint with the 'rents and realize that becoming a boomerang kid turned out to be a decision I'm glad I made.

I grew to know and appreciate my parents more than I already did and learned just how highly entertaining they can actually be. One story in particular vividly illustrates the fact that there was never a dull moment during my stay.

The dryer had been on the fritz, and my mom and I complained just enough to motivate my dad to check out the exhaust pipes a few weeks ago.

After his repair, he did a little laundry to put the dryer through a test run. I was standing at the top of the staircase talking to my mom when I stopped in mid-conversation because of a strange odor in the air.

"Is something burning?" I asked, just as I heard my dad coughing from the direction of the laundry room and saw smoke billowing out of the doorway.

"Oh my God!" my mom yelled as she quickly dumped a laundry basket full of towels onto the floor, passing it to my dad.

He scurried out the back door with a basket full of smoking clothes, flung them onto the lawn and began sorting through the burned, hole-ridden T-shirts, underwear and socks.

While my mom ran around flailing and cussing, my dad came back inside to assess the damage and clean the charred bits of clothing out of the dryer.

Still at my perch atop the stairs in disbelief this scene was unfolding in front of my eyes, I noticed one of the piles of clothes in the backyard had started smoking quite a bit. Then, out of nowhere, the pile burst into big orange flames.

"The clothes are on fire," I said, pointing out the back window.

Stirring little response from the pair below, I gently reiterated my point.

"No, you don't understand, there are literally FLAMES!" I said, jumping up and down as I pointed this time.

More flailing and cussing ensued as my dad ran back outside to douse the fire with a bucket of water.

My parents live in a nice, maintenance-free neighborhood where the homeowner's association won't even allow residents to build wooden fences because they are considered tacky. I wonder what the rule is on having giant piles of flaming underwear in the back yard? The neighbors now surely think the Beverly Hillbillies have moved in next door.

Was my dad a little too skilled at fixing the dryer or was he just starting to lose his mind because his 25-year-old daughter had been living in his house?

After all the fires were without a doubt extinguished and the mass chaos had died down, my dad revealed his theory behind the pyrotechnics. He had been using linseed oil, which is highly flammable, to finish a wooden workbench in the basement and tossed the oil-soaked rags in with the wash. When the remaining oil on the rags hit the heat of the dryer, it spontaneously combusted, just as the warnings on the bottle indicated.

Because we figured out the dryer wasn't possessed, the house hadn't burned down and the linseed oil was securely locked in the flammables cabinet, we figured it was now safe to laugh a little - or howl uncontrollably and share the story with anybody who would listen.

I may have grudgingly accepted my fate as a boomerang kid but discovered that it doesn't have to be so bad for either party.

I think Mom and Dad learned that adult children, though perhaps still just as messy, are more respectful and less evil than the teenage versions, and I found that at age 25, the word "parents" takes on a much different meaning than it did 10 years ago.

Good parents are there to give you a boost at any age by offering advice and helping to pick you up, dust you off and send you back on your way a little bit wiser. And, if you're really lucky, they may even catch their underwear on fire just to cheer you up.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

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