It’s the start of a new school year, and while most of my neighbors are sending their children off to one of the nearby middle or high schools, a few of us are shipping ours off to college. This year I have a sophomore at Auburn University in Alabama and a senior at High Point University in North Carolina. The fact that these schools are nowhere near each other and multiple hours drive from Nashville complicates moving day. The only thing that saved me is that classes at Auburn start a week before classes at High Point. For this reason, I was able to help them both move into their dorms.
Auburn, Alabama: Child #2; Trip #1, 240 miles
Keaton worked 40-hour weeks all summer long and was clearly tired of it. He was anxious to go back to school and didn’t complain when we packed the vehicles the night before we left. He was even ready to go the next morning at 7:20 A.M.—10 minutes ahead of schedule. He’s never ahead of schedule, and so I wasn’t ready. I had built a 30-minute cushion into the schedule anticipating Keaton being slow. Of course, I wasn’t about to admit that, so I quickly threw a few things into an overnight bag and we hit the road right at 7:30.
Thankfully, the drive was uneventful. Although I worried incessantly that one of the soft-sided car top carriers that each of our vehicles sported would come flying off, neither did. We made it to Auburn in time to grab lunch prior to his pre-arranged move-in time. We pulled into the parking lot, and I asked Keaton, “Are you sure this is the place?” He was. All I can say is that dorms have come a long way since I was in college. The dorm he will be living in used to be rented as apartments. I’m guessing they weren’t cheap because they are spacious with lots of amenities. The school recently bought the property and now uses it for student housing. I’m glad he has nice digs, but good grief. I expect it will be several years after he graduates before he can afford an apartment that nice. No wonder so many kids these days seem to be on the five-year college plan. When I was in college, living in a dumpy room and sharing a bathroom down the hall with a dozen other people was motivation to graduate early.
Keaton spent the night in his apartment-like dorm while I stayed in a local hotel. The next morning, I stopped by to see him before I headed back home. Leaving him was harder than I expected. I reminded myself that he is in a good place and is happy—exactly what we as parents want for our children. We have to let them go, but dang is it hard! I hugged him one more time, and then as I was leaving I remembered I wanted to see the view from his balcony. Yes, his dorm has a balcony. No, mine did not. I stepped outside and looked down at a lovely view of a pool. A pool? What the heck? I’m paying for a POOL? Suddenly, leaving him wasn’t nearly as hard as making myself go home and go back to work. Instead, I wanted to be back in college, jump in the pool, and not think about where the money comes from to pay for it all. Adulting is hard. Is this cushy college life really preparing them for what is to come in the real world? I have my doubts.
High Point, North Carolina: Child #1; Trip #2, 374 miles
A week later it was Kendrick’s turn to go back to school. There was less to pack since most of his stuff stays in storage near the campus over the summer. He doesn’t take a car to school, so even though there is less stuff, it all has to fit into one vehicle. Once again, I wanted to pack the night before. We started with the soft-sided carrier, and although it was probably overkill since we had no issues on the Auburn trip, this time I added a couple of ratchet straps for extra peace of mind. Neither Kendrick nor I had ever used rachet straps, and we probably could have saved some time and foul language had we just watched a YouTube video first. By the time we had the top of the car loaded, we were both tired and cranky, and he wanted to wait and finish loading in the morning. Since it is a seven-hour drive and we lose an hour, I wanted to leave at 6:00 A.M. Thus, I reasoned, we should finish packing that night. We compromised by putting everything in the car except his computer and a few things he hadn’t packed yet. I went to bed, and he promised to have everything else ready to go by 5:00 A.M.
Let’s just say our definition of “a few things” is not the same. We had left space for his computer but not the dozen other things he couldn’t live without. He looked at the nearly full car and the numerous items left in the foyer and dejectedly announced that there was no way it would all fit. Well, back in the early days of computer gaming, I was a master at Tetris. I took his proclamation as a challenge. It took two hours, but I remain a champion. Everything fit. We left at 7:20 A.M.
Nearly eight hours after leaving home, we pulled onto campus. Like Auburn, High Point University has a lot of really nice housing. For the last three years, Kendrick has shared an on-campus suite with other students. The accommodations were rather upscale and far nicer than the dorms available during my own college days. This year, Kendrick’s time slot to pick housing was later than usual, and, like Keaton, he ended up in a university-owned apartment adjacent to the campus. However, unlike Keaton’s recently built apartment that has as many bathrooms as bedrooms, Kendrick’s apartment dates back to the fifties. It has two small bedrooms and one tiny bathroom that he will share with his roommate. Despite its shortcomings, Kendrick loves it because it feels like a real apartment instead of a dorm. I love it too. It has everything he needs, but there is absolutely nothing fancy about it. It’s exactly like something he might be able to afford when he gets that first job after college. It seems like an appropriate transition to help prepare him for the real world. Maybe Auburn has something similar for Keaton next year. I think I’ll ask.