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News quickly spread during freshmen orientation about Thefacebook, a website initiated only months before for Harvard students. Beth joined her peers to ride the first wave of social networking in 2004. Orientation wrapped up with tradition. Freshmen watched the last movie filmed on the Harvard campus in 1970, Love Story, with added audience participation.
Freshmen dined together in a stunning wood cathedral with stained glass windows. The chamber resembled the dining hall in the Harry Potter movies. The main entrance had many steps, so Beth wheeled the extra distance to the back entrance of Annenberg Hall to the elevator. She set a tray on her lap and could reach most of what she wanted. The friendly ladies who worked there offered to assist.
Beth rarely asked for or accepted help.
The 1,500 freshmen met new friends at meals, though entering alone and deciding where to sit could be intimidating. Beth preferred to snack in her room until Rakhi encouraged her to go to Annenberg more often. When they dined there together, Rakhi made sure they sat with other students. She decided on her own to identify herself as a freshman. A first-year student, yes, but in graduate school.
I assumed I would do--should do—Beth’s laundry, especially during the challenging transition. I also felt the need to help, to make one small aspect of her days easier.
She categorically refused.
At home, she couldn’t get close to the washer and dryer with her wheelchair. In the dorm, she could reach the side-by-side appliances. Still, I attempted to change her mind. I could do it faster. She’d have more free time. I even offered to take her clothes to a laundromat, in case she didn’t want me to use the dorm laundry room. That wasn’t it. Next, I offered to pay for the laundry service on campus. Never happened. Instead, I explained how to sort clothes. I don’t think she was listening.
Beth drew a line in the sand with laundry.
However, doing it herself was never a priority until she put on her last pair of clean underwear. She bought extra underwear at the Gap in the Square to put the task off longer.
She very slowly dragged a big, overstuffed mesh bag full of dirty clothes across the floor, down the hall, and into the elevator. Laundry soap and a baggie of quarters sat on her lap. Like many other college students, she learned the hard way that whites don’t stay white if you wash them in hot water with dark colors. Clean laundry came back up to her room in the same mesh bag and on her lap. Most of it found a home on an extra chair in her bedroom.
A small price to pay for independence.
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