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August 20th, 2011
06:35 PM ET

Letters to the President: #943 'Digging out'

Reporter's Note: The president is taking a break from work and so am I in a sense.

Dear Mr. President,

Yesterday I spoke with great affection about my elder daughter's pending departure for college. Today, let me speak in more practical terms. We have been packing all morning, and let me tell you, there were old expeditions into the heart of the Congo that involved fewer supplies and were less in need of porterage than we are today.

It is as if she came home last spring with all of her worldly possessions packed into a giant crate, which she detonated, spreading all manner of items to every corner of the house, wherein they somehow multiplied and must now be corralled for the trip back to Georgia Tech. And yet, simultaneously, she has great shipping boxes full of items that were stacked in the basement and have gone utterly untouched. It is kind of like that final scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

"I thought you would be taking back fewer things," I said as I blew away the dust, and opened yet another box that had not even been cracked since she returned. "Do you really need this?"

She glanced into the tangle of wires, pennants, research papers, posters and clothing. "Oh yes. And hey, here is that Mother's Day card I bought for mom and then couldn't find! Do you think I should give it to her now?"

"If that means I won't have to cart it back to Georgia, then by all means..."
"Thanks, Dad."

She has remained remarkably cheerful throughout the process, treating each new discovery as if it is the Rosetta Stone newly unearthed.

"Look! It's an airfoil we made from cardboard!"
"Oh my gosh, let me tell you what happened to the other sock!"
"Oh. I guess I do have enough lamps, after all. Well, mom can just return the ones we bought this week."

You have to understand, that while I am far from fastidious in the daily management of my things, when it comes to travel of any sort, i pack lean, clean, and light. When I went to college, I'm pretty sure everything I needed fit onto the front passenger seat of my Chevy Biscayne, with enough extra room for a guitar. By comparison, her possessions are threatening to collapse in upon their own gravity, creating a black hole of collegiate detritus which could suck the whole neighborhood in with it before we can even get out of the driveway. And her system, such as it is, would be enough to make Rubik shake his head and declare, "I give up."

Seriously, at one point I saw a shirt lying on the floor behind a door.

"What is this?" I asked.
"That's clean. I am going to wear it tomorrow."
"So you're going to wake up in the hotel, walk over to look behind the door and it will magically be there?"
"Oh Dad," she said, and rolled her eyes as if I were the one not making any sense.

A moment ago, this was our exchange. "I think I am going to throw out this mascara. I have no idea how old it is," she said from somewhere deep in the pile.

"I'd guess the 1920's. Maybe the Smithsonian will want it," I replied.
"What? I can't hear you."
"I said have you considered changing your major to archaeology?"
"I still can't hear you. Hey! Peanut butter!"

Anyway, I better wrap up and get back to it. If you don't hear from me tomorrow, send dogs. Or maybe Indiana Jones.

Regards,
Tom