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Thursday, August 21, 2014, 3:29 a.m.
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Flashback: Husband returns to dorm life

By Tammy Keith

This article was published June 8, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

My husband is all settled into his dorm room.

He’s working on his doctorate at Southern Miss University in Hattiesburg, and he has to fulfill the residency requirement by actually living there for a couple of summers.

Last year, he moved into a 400-square-foot block-wall apartment. I never even saw it because he came home on most weekends. He had no TV, and a table in front of a window, so he said it was easy to study. There wasn’t much else to do.

The old apartment complex is scheduled to be torn down, and no one was allowed to live there this summer.

So he got a dorm-room assignment.

It’s only been 30 years since he lived in a dorm room at good old Arkansas State University. (That dorm, and one other he lived in, have been torn down, too.)

At 54, a married father of two grown boys — one of whom is still in college — my husband is living the campus life.

He said his name was on the door when he got there.

It’s a typical dorm room, from the pictures I’ve seen and how he describes it, only bigger than the one I remember living in.

The room has a mini-fridge and a microwave, so he can have his oatmeal every morning.

In his first phone call home to me, he complained about the food in the cafeteria. Excuse me, “the caf,” he called it.

There weren’t enough healthy options, he said. Besides the salad bar, his options were chicken-fried steak, pizza and sloppy Joes. He picked the sloppy Joe — because, he said, he hadn’t had one probably since the last time he lived in a dorm — and had a salad. He has found fresh fruit, so he’s stocking up on that.

He went for breakfast one day, but he said he didn’t get any of the thick, white wallpaper-paste gravy, the diced potatoes, “probably fried,” he said, or the array of doughnuts. “Oooh, they had doughnut holes. I almost fell for them,” he said.

The sausage was good but “a little cold,” he complained. The eggs were “pretty good.”

His report to me one day this week: “There was banana pudding today.” Wow, I may have to drive to Hattiesburg to eat with him.

After all, he’s the cook at our house — I’m the one who needs the caf.

He said he is happy the soft-serve ice cream machine is working this summer because it wasn’t last year.

The caf often is full of noisy teenagers attending various camps, so he tries to go early or late, he said, but sometimes his class schedule forces him to go when they are there.

My husband made this observation: “The cheerleaders like the ice cream machine so much a lot of them go to it first, then go get their pizza or fried food.”

Yeah, I remember the days I could do that.

“There’s nothing like trying to review class notes or read a book in a room with several hundred middle school cheerleaders,” he told me.

One of his other complaints about dorm living is that he can’t adjust the thermostat because it’s encased in one of those locked plastic boxes, and he’s cold. He could take his sweater from home that we’ve dubbed the Mr. Rogers sweater. That should keep the coeds away from him.

Bless his heart. It’s hard to be an almost-senior-citizen college student. Maybe he can make some friends in the dorm and get up a rousing game of checkers or organize shuffleboard down the hall.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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