Tears, excitement, much heavy lifting

Freshmen: University of Maryland students moving in deal with boxes, roommates and emotional parents.

August 28, 1999|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

Charles Jackson and his daughter, Christyn, were lugging a huge plastic bin with an overstuffed duffel bag atop it up the steps of Cumberland Hall at the University of Maryland, College Park yesterday. His son, Aaron, a strapping 12-year-old, was managing just a small plant.

"What's with that?" Christyn, 18, asked. "You're the football player."

Aaron shrugged. It was move-in day for more than 900 freshmen in UMCP's Scholars program, a sort of small college within the university that occupies a quadrangle of dormitories.

This rite of passage, involving heavy lifting and heavier emotions, will be a fixture at every college in the state over the coming weeks.

"I'm excited for her," Jackson said of his daughter. "But it feels very funny. She's my first child."

Jackson looked at his daughter. "I'm going to be OK," he said.

Up in her room -- 2127 Cumberland -- where several plastic bins had already been emptied, there was the matter of fitting the two carloads of stuff, plus more still to come from home in Upper Marlboro, while leaving enough space for a similarly equipped yet-to-arrive roommate.

"We get them in touch with their roommates over the summer so they can coordinate," said Cindy Threatt, director of residential life in the Scholars program. "So they both don't bring every electrical appliance from home."

Jackson said when he went to Bowie State University a couple of decades ago, he probably didn't take much more than the equivalent of the contents of his daughter's duffel bag. Now most rooms have at least one computer, stereos, television sets, videocassette recorders.

In front of Cambridge Hall, Jackie Roberts was standing guard over her son Scott's hoard of belongings. The just-purchased mini-refrigerator was still in the van rented for the trip.

"All the way down, Scott was saying this stuff isn't going to fit in his room," she said of the drive from Philadelphia.

Scott and his father, Gary Roberts, appeared, ready for another load. Scott looked over the remaining pile. "It's not going to fit," he said with certainty.

"Then we'll just take it back," his father said.

"I'm very excited and proud of him," Jackie Roberts said after the men left. "We both went to Penn State, but he didn't like the setting there. But in the last few weeks, he's been looking at our house saying, `Why would I want to leave here? It's air-conditioned. All my friends are here.' But it's time for him to make this move."

Threatt said the lack of air conditioning is the first big adjustment the freshmen have to make. Fans were evident in many piles of belongings, some already chugging away in windows.

The freshmen were getting together for individual floor meetings yesterday afternoon, learning the rules of dorm life.

"Everyone wants to get along with everybody when they first get here," Threatt said. "Next week we'll start hearing about roommate problems."

Josh Slaybaugh, 18, shouldn't have that problem. He and his best friend, Mike Summers, came together from Harrisburg, Pa., and are roommates.

Slaybaugh's mother, Cathy Bowker, said the importance of the move hit her doing chores. "I was doing his last load of laundry, and I just broke down in tears."

She held up the laundry bag she bought for him, the side printed with instructions for laundromat rookies. "Emptying the pockets is the most important," she said.

Sandy Irby, an 18-year-old from Queens, N.Y., said she expected tears from her mother, too. "She cried when I came down for orientation and that was just one night," she said.

Back in 2127 Cumberland, Christyn's mother, Vida Jackson, was using a spray cleaner on the dorm-issue furniture.

"We're only 20 minutes away, it's not so far," she said. "But there's still some separation anxiety."

Members of the younger generation were having an easier time with their emotions. Christyn Jackson said she was excited. "But it's still school, so how excited can you be?"

As for her brother, Aaron, he shook his head when asked if he was going to miss his sister.

"I'm going to use her room for my laboratory," he said.

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