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After 10 years, a son moves home

August 04, 2005|By: JOSEPH N. BELL

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.

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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

other directions.

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

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