One fine Sunday


Walking down Ellis Avenue to cover move-in day for incoming students, I saw the quintessential rite of passage in full swing. The street was lined with bumper-to-bumper cars transporting students, their families, and piles of luggage. A crowd had congregated outside the new South Campus Residence Hall. Student volunteers in lime-green T-shirts pushed bright orange carts up and down ramps.

Sporting jeans, a striped polo, and a ponytail—my best guess at what a 2009 college student would wear on such an occasion—I sat on a curb near the new dorm's entrance and tried to blend with the bustle. I listened to two students discuss European soccer and watched parents snap photos. Then a resident head announced that students would start heading to their rooms in groups of ten: “Only the students—no belongings, no parents—follow me.” After her son walked through the glass doors, one matter-of-fact mother said, “That’s it. I’m never going to see him again.”

The students filtered into SCRH, finding their rooms and reuniting with their parents. Up in Oakenwald House, animated banter had replaced the quiet conversation from outside. One student pulled clothes out of his suitcase while answering his mother’s questions:

“Can I make your bed?”
With a wry smile: “You can stay outside.”
From the doorway: “Are you sure I can’t help?”
“OK, fine.”

While listening to the exchanges I saw not a single tear, which surprised me at first, but then again, what was there to cry about? Perhaps one father put it best: “This is nice—a beautiful new dorm with a dining hall right next to it.”

Katherine Muhlenkamp

Photography by Dan Dry.



September 24, 2009