Thursday, September 2, 2010

Baylor Move-In Day

On a very hot, muggy August morning, the heavy oppressive kind of hot and muggy that induces lethargy and irritability, a mother and father rode silently in their silver Suburban whose back window still bore the telltale stickers of the hometown high school left behind. The mother flipped nervously through the binder in her lap. She had spent the summer carefully hole-punching and filing important information under all the appropriate tabs. The “Housing/Dining” tab tucked away all the crucial particulars of living on campus. She quickly reviewed and double-checked each detail for the 5th time that morning. Room assignment? Check! Micro/fridge rental info? Check! Meal plan selection? Check! Every few seconds she glanced up from her paperwork to make sure that her husband was still on the right route despite his years of experience in making this trip. “It says that we’re supposed exit on University Parks NOT on 5th Street,” she reminded. He replied with a roll of his eyes. “His assigned move in time is 9:30, and it’s 9:27 now!” Again, the eye roll.

The parents’ hearts were full of conflicting emotions…joy, sadness, fear of the unknown and the gentle peace, which came with the known. They were taking their son to their own Alma Mater, Baylor University. The 3rd seat of their SUV had been removed just the day before so that the vehicle could be packed by the father and son and then strategically repacked by the mother full to the ceiling with “dorm stuff” and the mother-recommended “just in case items” necessary to keep one 18 year old male child alive and well for 9 months of new found freedom and independence. Their son followed closely behind them in his Jeep Cherokee that was likewise strategically filled with “dorm stuff.” Although his face bore that all too familiar teenage look of confidence and coolness that comes with knowing everything one could possibly ever want or need to know in a lifetime, deep down inside, the boy was longing for the safety of home, watching The Simpsons with his dad and brothers, and feasting upon his mother’s homemade chicken enchiladas. As they pulled onto University Parks Drive, their path was marked with signs donned with clusters of green and gold balloons, which simply shouted, “Welcome Baylor Students!” “Dorm Move-In This Way!” A little further down, the signs became more specific. “North Village” with an arrow pointing to the right. “Penland” with an arrow pointing forward. “Keep going straight,” the mother barked, “they are taking us the long way around!” The directions given by the signs seemed counter intuitive to both of the parents particularly the father. For he, himself was quite familiar with the destination they were seeking because it had only been 31 short years before as the nation celebrated its Bicentennial that he had made the exact same journey. The déjà vu he was feeling tugged at the steering wheel willing the caravan to veer onto the more direct path. However, he continued to obediently follow the signs. The balloons. The mother’s anxious directives.

The signs led them on a meandering course that took them down Bagby where the Golden Wave Band was practicing marching formations to the cadence of the drumline. The pounding of the drums rang familiar in the parents’ ears. “Isn’t that the field that had the hollow tree?” reminisced the father. “Yes,” sighed the mother remembering the scavenger hunt he planned for her all those years ago and the thrill of finding him in that hollow tree. The laughter. The sweet kisses. Lost in their own thoughts, they absently followed the procession down Bagby to the checkpoint at 5th Street. Along the way, they were cheerfully greeted and ushered by volunteers sporting camoflage “Move-In Crew” t-shirts. Feeling like dignitaries in some sort of parade, they turned on 5th Street and approached its barricaded entrance to the campus, where there stood a lady with a yellow window marker and an official looking clipboard. Using the universally understood roll-down-the-window hand signal, she stepped close to their vehicle and leaned down to the window. “What dorm are you heading for?!,” she sang out as if she was one of their long lost, best friends or a forgotten distant relative. The mother leaning across the Suburban’s console, which is the universal secret sign for “I’m in charge here” answered, “We…and the white Jeep Cherokee behind us are heading to Penland.” “What’s that room number?” Quickly pulling out the official Move-In Day schedule, the mother double-checked the number and replied in a voice that was unnecessarily loud and clear, “That would be Penland, Room 217.” “Penland 217!” the lady chirped as she quickly marked the windshield with some sort of carwash type code. “Just follow the directions of the Move-In Crew, and WELCOME TO BAYLOR!!” With a quick “aye-aye captain” they were on their way passing through the barricades smack dab onto the very street on which cars were normally declared verboten that boldly stretched through the heart of the campus.

Smiling and waving and squinting to decipher the hieroglyphic code on the windshield of the parents’ car, the Move-In Crew directed their path. Inching forward in the line of cars, the apprehensive parents could see that some of the cars ahead of them were guided alongside the Sub toward Brooks Hall and Collins while the rest continued forward toward Penland and Martin. As their Suburban neared Penland Hall, they began to hear rock music pulsing from huge speakers festooned with green and gold signs of welcome set up on the front lawn of the dorm. Balloons, balloons, balloons! Music, music, music! The carnival atmosphere began to seep into the couple’s veins soothing their anxious hearts.  Any apprehensions they felt at the thought of moving their child the long 5 ½ hours from home began to melt into excitement for their son as memories of  crazy dorm pranks flooded their heads. In unison they absently began to nod their heads to the beat of the song that filled the air around them. After a long summer of organized, systematic, thorough preparation, the mother began to relax. She began to smile.

The last turn brought them along the west side of the dorm where they waited their turn to stop next to a set of double doors. Minutes later when their turn came, the doors burst open and out ran about 10 Move-In Crew Members clapping, singing and chanting welcomes to the line of cars. With a quick glance at the windshield’s Move-In code and a hearty shout of “217!” like a swarm of grasshoppers, they descended upon the Suburban yelling, “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaye…Sic ‘Em Bears!” Doors were opening! Commands were shouted! “Careful, the laptop is in this box!” “Hey! I need help with this clothes rod!” The commotion that followed can only be described in this way: Wooosh, wooosh, wooosh, woooooosh! Like a pig on a spit, the clothes rod full of neatly hung t-shirts and jeans was born off on the shoulders of 2 tall crew members. Boxes of towels were flying! The laundry basket full of never-to-be-used laundry soap and drier sheets simply danced towards the open doors! A glance in the rear view mirror revealed an empty Suburban picked clean by the Crew. In the distance the voices of the chanting students echoed away up the stairwell to Penland Room 217 along with the freshman’s 2 SUV loads of belongings. Then, Silence.

In the wink of an eye it was done. Just like that…WOOSH!...followed by…silence. Silence quickly broken by the cadence of the rock music. Then, the trilling voice of a cute co-ed directed the parents to follow the signs which would lead them to a very remote parking lot where they could then take a shuttle back the dorm to unpack the child’s belongings and help him set up camp. They slowly pulled away resuming their head bobs to the beat of the music. Just like that. The son and all of his worldly possessions had been wooshed away to what would become his home during his freshman year at Baylor University. Then silence. Followed by head bobs. Just like that. Goodbye Mom and Dad. Time to move on.

Free at last!  Free at last!  Free at last!

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