The kid is moving back home on Sept. 1. He's been gone for 10 years,
the first four in college, the last six living and working in Los
Angeles. In those years, Erik would come home to do his laundry,
collect birthday presents, observe holidays and attend selected
family functions. Home was also an occasional bed-and-breakfast that
he used more frequently when he found a writing partner closer to
home than she was to Los Angeles. But after Sept. 1 -- three weeks beyond his 28th birthday -- Erik's new home will be his old home.
Deja vu -- as Yogi Berra liked to say -- all over again.
In the patois of Erik's generation, that's cool with me. The kid
has been useful in certain areas around the house. He's the only
family member who can lift the water bottle onto its stand. He has
also become an effective intermediary in domestic disagreements,
especially when his mother is clearly in the wrong. He can point this
out with less collateral damage than I can.
Erik is moving back home because the cost of living in Los Angeles
was forcing him to look for a regular job at a time when his writing
was showing realistic promise of providing him a livelihood. The only
tangible way for us to help Erik in this situation was to offer him
his old bedroom rent-free while he pursued the promise. A year, at
most, he tells us. If it hasn't happened in a year, he'll look in
About the time his mother and I agreed on this decision, we were
startled to read a long piece in the Los Angeles Times about the
strong and growing movement of freshly minted adults back to
childhood home and hearth. According to a recent U.S. census, some
25% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 now live with their
parents. This translates to an estimated 18 million young people who
have set up hopefully temporary shop back home. It is especially
tough for people of my generation to get our heads around this social
revolution. When I was growing up, a kid was expected to make his own
way in the world when he turned 18. If college was in this picture,
the parents would help for the next four years to the extent of their
ability. And God help the student who looked to home once this
process was completed. So what has changed?
For starters, we have the zooming tab for education that has led
to staggering student debt. Then there is the escalating cost of
rent, the only housing option -- except returning home -- available
to most young people. Constant financial crises grow out of a soft
employment market in which the number of middle-class jobs is
When variations of these factors drive young people to look
homeward, there is a litany of possible problems that need to be
resolved before they become serious irritants. We plan to review them
with Erik in the next few weeks, and all three of us are making
mental notes in preparation. Here are some of mine.
* Do not use my bath towel because it happens to be the closest at
hand in the bathroom we will be sharing. Likewise my razor.
* When borrowing anything from my desk -- scotch tape, scissors,
whatever -- put it back when you finish so I don't spend half the day
looking for it.
* When grubbing through the newspaper in the morning, don't
rat-hole the Calendar section or leave the rest of the paper in a
misshapen mess that has to be reconstructed before I can read it.
* Check with higher authority before commandeering the laundry
* Be aware that bumper stickers on your car that are hilarious in
your Los Angeles neighborhood don't play at all well in ours -- and
I'm not talking politics here.
* Lock the front door and turn off all the lights when you come in
* Do not schedule television activities when there is an Angel
game in progress on the tube.
* Occasionally ask me for advice -- or maybe even a war story --
whether you want it or not.
These are a few of the more serious issues on my list. Such
matters as giving up his room when our friends from distant places
visit will, I'm certain, be brought up by his mother.
One thought that kept occurring to me as I made up my list was
that it would be much easier to compile a list of positive things his
live-in presence will add to our household than those that might
cause problems. The tone here has always been lifted when Erik
Come to think of it, I can deal with a lot of wet towels in
exchange for that. So welcome home, kid.
* JOSEPH N. BELL is a resident of Santa Ana Heights. His column