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Encounters | An occasional feature

Making the cut for Gainesville

LUTZ — After packing her new pillows and comforter, after boxing the ramen noodles and brownie mix, Allison Briggs stood in the doorway of her cluttered bedroom.

She looked at the lavender walls plastered with Broadway playbills, a James Dean poster, framed photos of her friends. On the dresser lay the jewelry box her boyfriend bought her.

"Okay," Allison said, sighing. "This is going to be hard."

For 18 years, her whole life, Allison's room has been her sanctuary. The one place she could escape from her parents, her little brother. The world.

But today, Allison is heading to the University of Florida, along with 10,000 other freshmen.

So on Monday, her mom made her clean out her room.

Allison had been dreading this. How can you sort through a lifetime in one afternoon? How do you decide which pieces of yourself to leave behind?

• • •

Allison's floor was piled high with clean laundry. Her closet crammed with years of clothes. Shorts and sweats, jewelry and books, cards and costumes.

She slid out a bin of shoes, dumped them onto the carpet. "You know," her friend Rachel said, "we don't have much room."

Rachel Klausner, 17, has been Allison's best friend since ninth grade. Together, they survived the IB program at Hillsborough High. Both girls love cowboy boots and Kenny Chesney. Both have long-term boyfriends and wear size small from Forever 21.

In Gainesville, they will share a room smaller than this one.

"You don't need two pairs of black heels," Rachel chided. "And since when did you wear slides?"

"They make me look athletic," said Allison. Out went the slides.

• • •

Twisting her sandy hair into a ponytail, she turned to her dresser. Seven drawers. At school, she will have four.

She wanted to keep that tie-dye shirt from when she was in Godspell. Okay, she didn't need the panda tee from her 8th grade boyfriend. But the brown John Deere one? "It's from Josh," she told Rachel, snatching it back from the NO pile. "I'm going to sleep in that."

Allison plans to study political science and journalism. She can't wait to write for the college paper. And stay out past 12:30 a.m.

Her boyfriend will be at the University of Central Florida. Soon, they will celebrate 10 months.

"You want all these jeans?" Rachel asked, holding up a stack.

"No," said Allison. "I'm going to start wearing more skirts."

• • •

Allison pulled a gold cardboard box from her closet. Inside were her best memories: notes from kids in New Orleans, where her church group fixed houses; plane tickets from her trip to Europe; a graduation card.

"My dad never writes anything," Allison said. "But he wrote all this to me."

She dropped the card into the box. Slid the box back on the shelf. "But I guess we won't have room for all that."

But she made room for her cowboy boots. Her black leather Coach bag. That polka dot purse.

"Okay, last thing," Allison called, reaching beneath her bed. "I'm not sure what's under here. It's kind of gross." She found some high school hoodies. "Can't wear those in college." A black headband. A new Bible.

She kept the headband. Slid the Bible back under the bed.

• • •

"Hey, what's this?" Rachel asked. Hours had passed. The room was getting hot. The girls were getting hungry.

Rachel reached below the headboard and pulled up a stuffed something. "Oh," Allison said. "That's Razzmatazz."

She grabbed the critter to her chest and explained: He's a bear. Her dad bought it at Cracker Barrel when she was, like, 10.

Silver-gray, with a pink triangle nose and small black eyes, Razzmatazz is the last Beanie Baby Allison held onto after her mom sent all the others to the attic. He's the one friend she was allowed to take when her family traveled to Alaska; the one who came with her when she got her tonsils out. She told him secrets, slept with him every night.

"Can he come?" Allison asked. "Will people make fun of me?"

Rachel didn't answer.

"I don't care," Allison said, hugging the bear. "You're coming with me."

She tucked Razzmatazz into the box, then remembered. And took him out. She still had so much to tell him, during these last two nights at home.

Lane DeGregory can be reached at degregory@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8825.

About this series

Encounters is dedicated to small but meaningful stories. Sometimes they play out far from the tumult of the daily news; sometimes they may be part of it. To comment or suggest an idea for a story, contact editor Mike Wilson at mike@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2924.

Making the cut for Gainesville 08/17/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 18, 2010 7:16am]
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