How Junior Year Move-In Feels Completely Different

If it’s the end of August, it must be time for college students everywhere to head to campus in that most universal experience known as ‘move-in.’ For us, it’s our third time around the “move-the-girl-to-college’ block, and, let me tell you, it feels different each year.

Freshman year move-in was full of shiny new things, sentimental photos, hangers, boxes, and Ikea bags all wrapped in the blanket of an anxious, humid, (why, oh why, is it always humid?) August day. Sophomore year was quieter, calmer, as we set up her RA room in the eerie quiet of a dorm whose residents had not yet arrived. Fighting to set things up within the confines an odd floorplan in between dashes to the car and runs to the store during monsoon-like downpours of a humid (see?) August afternoon.

There was no grand goodbye, no comforting words at the last address from the college president as there had been the year before. Just a hug in a parking lot and a view of her back as she walked away from my Jeep.

cat
The cat knows that move-in day is about to happen.

Junior Year of College Move-In Day

This year, frankly, we’re all a little over it. We know the drill by now and the bloom is a bit off the rose. Junior year is a Target run or Amazon order we could do with our eyes closed; replacing a torn comforter here, a broken clothes rack there, and having our traditional “are you sure everything is going to fit in the car” argument.

It’s throwing away the old posters and changing out the photos. It’s grabbing a supply of 3M strips and hooks without even having to survey the selection because we know by now what works best on her college’s dorm room walls.

It’s equal parts “can’t you handle that yourself?” and “here let me do it for you.” It’s realizing those boxes aren’t going to get out the door and into the car by themselves, are they? It’s the bored ennui of heading back to a campus that holds no more ‘unknowns’ for her. It’s anticipation and nerves wrapped up in the resignation of an all–too-familiar humid (told you!) weather forecast and the weighty reality that college is already half over. It’s a cycle of sighing, suggesting, snapping, and apologizing, set on endless repeat.

Her cat knows it’s coming. She can’t make a move without an orange kitty following her around, climbing on her, sleeping on her, kneading on her as if to get in every last second. She accepts his constant attention while she rebuffs mine.

I’m tired. I want to be on the other side of move-in. I want her safely back on campus with her sweaters and her friends, her bags of microwave popcorn and her professors, her parties and her thesis. I want my quiet mornings and smaller grocery lists, my free weekends and clear calendar, and I want the orange kitty to cuddle on my lap for a change.

And at the same time, I want to hit the pause button and live in these few days for a while longer. I dread move-in. Not just the humidity and boxes and things we forgot, but that it means she’s gone again. And the dinner table won’t be as funny, and I won’t have someone cleaning up the kitchen with me, and we’ll only need two tickets to the movies and a smaller popcorn, and I’ll watch Bravo reality shows without hearing her laugh from the couch or randomly reach out to hold my hand.

No one will eat the string cheese I bought for my lunches or finish the last of the Ben and Jerry’s, or sit on the deck with me after work reading and talking. And I’ll go back to my nighttime routine of going to sleep with my phone on my nightstand, waking up the next morning to read her 1am or 2am texts – sometimes silly, sometimes anxious, sometimes even a bit tipsy.

But I’ll grab on to them like a lifeline to this woman – no longer can I call her a girl – so much like me at times it’s eerie, and yet so fully, brilliantly her own person that I wonder where she came from, and how she’ll grow and change in this coming year.

One morning on this last week of her summer, on a forced carpool to work because, of course, her car died during this busy time-of course it did-we drove, quietly lost in our own thoughts, knowing that any mention of the to-do list would be greeted with all the tension of two women who hadn’t had enough coffee.

On impulse I took her hand. “I’m going to miss you.” I said, and the tremor in my voice surprised me. “I’m going to miss you too,” she replied quietly. And then as soon as it was upon us the moment passed.

So this is Junior Year, with the cord stretched even thinner as it continues on its way to breaking completely, time hurtling along at breakneck speed. One minute she was opening up the Common App at my dining room table and now she’s talking about grad school programs in England. I want her to fly. And I want her to stay. I want her gone and I want to hold on to her with every ounce of strength I have. But most of all, I want someone to move those damn boxes out of my basement and into my Jeep, because it’s really humid out there.

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Katie Collins is a native Mainer who has called New Hampshire home for the past 29 years. A nonprofit development professional by trade, Katie also has over 25 years of experience in community and professional theater and in 2013 was awarded NH Theater Award for Lead Actress in a Drama or Comedy. She resides in quiet domesticity with her adorable wife, with occasional visits from her talented daughter, a college junior . Katie is a lover of musical theater, the original Star Trek, cheeseburgers, old Carol Burnett show reruns, and weekly lap swimming at the local YMCA. She tries very hard not to take herself too seriously.

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