Tuesday, August 24, 2010

College Move-In: Tales from the Windstar

I was all ready for the mandatory pre-fall semester snarky posts, when someone sent me this New York Times article about how schools don't want parents hanging around for days/weeks/months. Fair enough, though I find myself hanging on, and utterly disagreeing, with one point: someone claims it takes several hours to move in a student.

This has most definitely not been my experience.

Shall we start at the beginning, then?

Picture it. 2004. A midwestern town. My mother, who swore her whole life she'd never drive a minivan, and I pack most of my belongings into a Windstar. We then drive eighteen hours east, during which time my mother manages to lose one of her shoes at a rest stop, the impulse-purchase IKEA chair bounces nonstop, and I consume an obscene number of Chicken McNuggets. By the time we arrive at the college we're exhausted, gross, stuffed full of fast food, and one of us is shoeless. A few hours, you say?

But of course that wouldn't be the end of it. My college had dreamed up a little pre-semester bonding for new students that involved 2.5 days of hiking. Which meant that while I geared up for the trek, my mother got to unload the van, set up my room, and try to recover before having to drive the van back. By the time I got back from the trip she was done, but it had taken days. We said our goodbyes and she drove the empty Windstar back for another eighteen hours.

My second year of college, we did manage to move in a couple of hours. But it nearly killed me. I was moving dorms and had a short amount of time to get my stuff out of the old dorm. My boyfriend was with me and he was moving like Speedy Gonzales on steroids, down the stairs, across the street, up the stairs, into the new room with a suitcase on his head and pulling three more behind him. We were tossing bedding down the stairs, carrying shoes in the hamper, dumping the contents of the dresser into garbage bags to carry Santa-style while we sprinted through campus. Then we slept for a few hours, unpacked, and used Icy-Hot for a couple of days. But I felt confident that my third year move-in could go something like that.

Third year would become known as the Year of the Broken Legs. Yes, two broken legs. At once. And of course, I was moving into a fourth-floor walk-up! In a bizarre twist of fate I managed to break my feet while I was at home, so my mother and I got to replicate our first-year drive, only she didn't lose a shoe and I was hopped up on painkillers. I don't think I even have to explain how long move-in took. And I don't remember exactly how most of it got done other than a steady stream of Good Samaritan friends.

Fourth year should have been a breeze after that. Wrong! My schedule was packed to high heaven with meetings and training and planning sessions for extracurricular activities. There was just no time to do anything. My "moving team" and I were just so glad it would be the last time that nothing else really mattered.

And then, of course, I decided to go to grad school. And we got movers.

Anyway, the point is that schools do need to recognize that this process is stressful. People are arriving after driving with a U-Haul trailer all night. People are emotional. People have to wait in line for an hour while trying to purchase towels at Target. People don't have to be "superinvolved" or "Velcro parents" to want more than a couple of hours to get their kid set up for the year. The helicopter parents will always find a way to sneak in through the gate as the rest of the crowd departs in a sea of Windstars.

Author's Note: I never realized how crazy this all was until I wrote it chronologically. I hope some of you have some college move-in horror stories, because now I'm concerned that it's just me...

1 comment:

  1. Just catching up on your blog. No, it's not just you. I have the same stories to tell and I only lived two hours away from W&M. I clearly remember that first move-in and telling my dad that if he died while carrying my mini-fridge up three flights of stairs by himself I was going home. ~ Sarah Mc.