The first blog I ever wrote but never published was titled Our Little Home: An Ode to Freshman Dorm Living. As you can tell, I enjoy odes as much as I enjoy actually writing the blogs I post. I dug up the blog entry recently and had a few lovely moments of reminiscence that I thought could be a worthwhile read. So, in this blog I will be sharing the original Ode, a lovely and only a little necessary contextual backstory, and finally a current response to the entry I wrote two years ago (when I was a sophomore) on a whim.
Our Little Home: An Ode to Freshman Dorm Living
I was walking across Wilder Bowl with my freshman year roommate Greer. We had just come out of the library and the antsy energy of a two-hour study session was in the air. “Let’s go back to our little home!” I exclaimed and without question we turned towards Dascomb. How did we get to a point where we called our corner room by the third-floor stairwell our “little home,” you might ask? I personally believe it was a combination of many factors, the first being our location. Sure, when you live by the stairs you pay the price of listening to raucous kids trampling up and down at all hours of the night on the weekends, but it also meant that the kitchen was directly across the hall from our door. While we jokingly referred to it as our kitchen, we learned to appreciate that space as a hub for socializing. Imagine being able to make a new friend while grabbing the ice cream you forgot you had from last week in the same space, that’s what the kitchen meant to us. I think the next critical factor in making our dusty little dorm room a cozy home was the wall decor. I know what you’re thinking, a little message board, maybe a sticky note or two. No, Greer and I actually sat down together and hand drew an iconographic portrait where I’m depicted as Donkey and Greer is made to look like Shreck. We included a lot of glitter so people walking by could be momentarily blinded by its beauty. I tell you all this because we only had access to these art supplies though a fall-themed craft event our RA hosted. So truly we have her to thank for our affinity towards our room. The last thing that really made room 301 a home to us was that we never took it too seriously. The complete lack of pressure for our room to look or feel a certain way ultimately led to us personalizing it in silly but really fun ways. For instance, on a whim we bought a kids' play rug that showed a farm scene. It came with little farm animals and didn’t look terrible and we were genuinely surprised at the amount of kids begging to hang out on a farm rug. At one point we bought a ream of fabric from Ben Franklin and fashioned little curtains around our window. Finally we completed the room with a horrendously gaudy gold lamp we found at the Free Store, and of course added about 100 yards of Christmas lights. Though our strange taste is not for everyone, all the little personalized knickknacks represented different personal memories we made together, whether it be our first secret Santa at college or a trip to Ben Franklin filled with belly laughs. As we move to a new dorm this fall, I hope our room keeps some of its little home magic for the next person in 301, and I’m glad I got to learn firsthand that worrying about how a space must look is often pointless because things usually fall into place.
Looking back, I remember the third-floor Dascomb room was surprisingly spacious. Though our beds were in opposite corners, everything between me and my roommate quickly became shared in the days following our immediate friendship. A large part of what made our room so great was my roommate, Greer Hobbs. In the original entry, Greer is merely mentioned as an artist and a roommate, but the context of our friendship seems necessary here, especially before describing my current living situation.
I’ll give you a Greer crash course, and a heartwarming rags to riches story about our friendship. The rags were the months before we lived together. We met a singular time at All Roads, the day when high school students who have been admitted to Oberlin are invited to come get a closer look at everyday college life. We didn’t talk too much even then, mostly because of the hubbub of the day, but in true high schoolers who might maybe potentially go to the same college fashion, we exchanged numbers before parting ways. In the coming months, there was an odd reach-out to try to understand how to sign up for orientation, or log into our Oberlin e-mails for the first time. Then, suddenly one day we were randomly placed as roommates. So begins the riches of the rags-to-riches story. When I arrived at Oberlin to move in, I didn’t know a single person. No one from my high school had attended Oberlin in a decade and I had not even pretended to check my Oberlin class Facebook page in the months leading up to that day. After a long day of unpacking, saying goodbye to my family and making small talk with people’s parents who I would surely never see again, I returned to room 301 to find another human being in it. It was Greer! We were definitely roommates now. Determined to make an effort, we both decided to grab some late food. After a deeply embarrassing four-minute discussion with our RA, in which we asked if we were allowed to leave Dascomb after 11pm and she replied with complete confusion and a helpless “I don’t really care? Sorry?” we set out into our first night at college, already chatting away to each other as if it wasn’t weird we would be living in the same room for the rest of the year. Over massive burritos we discovered that our lives were strangely similar up to this point, and in an unspoken way I feel like we decided then and there that our meeting, and living together, was (in a way) destined. Fast forward two years and we’re FaceTiming while quarantined in our homes, simultaneously clicking the button on the housing form that ensures we will be placed together once again as roommates. It’s the reunion we’ve all been waiting for after being shuffled around and roommateless during the height of COVID fear at Oberlin.
Now, with a foundational understanding of my friendship with Greer, I present to you the many nooks and crannies of our room. Yes! The riches of that harrowing rags to riches story you just heard continues! After all this time, and our months in and out of college and living without roommates because of COVID, we are finally reunited. This year we live in Tank, a big old Victorian mansion, a former orphanage turned co-op.
Our room now still has the vestiges of our original freshman-year Dascomb space, but the actual layout of room 202 dictated our current furniture placement. A huge bay window looks out over the front yard of Tank. The room is at a corner, so another tall window creates sweet bright spots of light in the morning. At the window, we’ve placed two chairs to continue the traditions of a little event we used to call “twins breakfast.” Freshman year that meant a quick run to Decaf (an Oberlin run grocery store type space), where I would buy double of three breakfast type foods on a meal swipe. Now, we share a cup of tea in those chairs some mornings, and reconvene there after long days to slump over in armchairs and trade stories from the day. Behind us, on the windowsill that juts out from the window, is our ever-growing collection of bobs and bits. Our line of small animal figurines peters out at the base of a small potted succulent that I found in a free bin this fall on a cold walk home from IGA. Recently, we’ve become more invested in bones. A small skull, complete with molars, rests on a bed of chipped hollow bird bones. We have hopes of making a strange, slightly terrifying mobile out of our collection one day, but until then they remain dainty and small, like slivers of porcelain at our window. My big rug is unfurled in the center of the room, leaving only a little space through which the hardwood floors are visible. On the walls parallel to each other, flanking the rug, we’ve set up our two beds, adorned by prints, cyanotypes, drawings and pictures from past and present art projects. Paper star lights, warm white and multicolor Christmas lights are strung around the room, and after an especially bizarre film project, a collection of gleaming butterfly stickers appeared on our windows and walls. The fall of our junior year was much busier than the fall of our freshman year, when we first lived together. Between jobs, classes, sports, and drastically different sleep schedules, the moments we did find to spend together in our room were either deliberate or deeply treasured. Though there was less time spent killing time together, we’ve always found that our shared space lends itself to new routines or traditions. Things like art projects we invent in tandem, or our ever-growing collection of troll dolls, are mounted on the wall, making the space not only feel homey and warm, but extremely shared. All our forks exist in a single jar, the packing tape we scour the room for at the end of each year is passed freely between hands, as are art supplies, clothes and shampoo. Sometimes, even student IDs are shared (because I seem to lose mine every three days).
As I write this reflection of room 202, and think back on the Dascomb room of freshman year, I realize this may be less of an ode to the spaces we make into our little homes, and more an ode to Greer Hobbs and our friendship as it exists in our shared spaces. I’m grateful to have been randomly placed with a person who equally adores knickknacks by the windowsill and silly rugs on the floor, and I look forward to the absurdity that will be our future room or living spaces.
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