August 22, 1999Hall on Virginia Avenue – 1:30 p.m.
On her first day in the Hall on Virginia Avenue, Adrienne Liberman adjusts to residence hall life. From the oddly cheerful community facilitators popping in to say hello, to the free spread of snacks in the downstairs lobby, there’s been plenty to see. Now she is exhausted.
For the past five hours she’s hauled an ungodly number of boxes, suitcases and bags up to the seventh floor room. Everything fits, she says, thankfully. Almost, everything. Her biggest problem seems to be figuring out how two giant-sized ceramic lamps, left over from HOVA’s former life as the historic Premier Hotel, will find appropriate homes in the soon-to-be residence hall room. Neither she, nor anyone else in the room, now crammed with helpful family members, particularly needs the bulbous lamps, but the community facilitator says they must stay.
Adrienne sighs at the rules, lies down on the bed and closes her eyes. It’s been a long day, she says. Everything has to be perfect. By tomorrow morning, she’ll be heading back to Randolph, N.J. leaving her son to fend for himself in the big city.
“I’m a little bit nervous,” she whispers. But not because her son Eric, a sweet, blond-haired teenager, isn’t entirely self-sufficient. (Indeed, Eric has rendered his computer, television and stereo system fully functional in a few short hours, with minimal emotional exertion.) The reason Adrienne Liberman looks so adoring and anxious at this very moment is precisely because Eric can do so much on his own. And now he is about to leave her. “What can I say?” she says apologetically. “He’s my baby.”
This weekend, as 2,000 GW freshmen brace themselves for a new chapter in their lives, 4,000 GW parents are doing the same. Despite endless hours of organizing, assembling and generally making sense of new versions of their children’s familiar, old bedrooms, most parents seem not to mind the frustration. Easing the way is part of a job they know well.
On the penthouse floor, Kristin Kresovsky grows pensive as her mom, Becky, tries to calm her. They’ve only been working for a half an hour, but already they know they have things they don’t need. A strange brown water stain lingers on the ceiling and the tracking on the window curtains is disheveled. “It’s just some little things,” Becky says soothingly. “Nothing to worry about, right? I’m sure they’ll take care of it all soon.”
At least they love the balcony view, which cuts through the imposing architecture of the Watergate complex onto the flowing Potomac River. In the Kresovskys’ Kansas town, few teens leave the state to go to college. Kristin’s decision to head this far east, to a large metropolis no less, was a bold one.
“The fear of the unknown holds people back,” says Becky. “What Kristin is doing is very brave.” She smiles at her daughter, who smiles right back at her.
“Mom, you know I’ll get homesick,” Kristin says.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be just fine,” counters Becky. “Everything will be OK.”
In the final hours before separation at HOVA, freshmen and their parents look just as nervous. Both act strong, excited and capable, mostly for each other. In another day or so, nearly every family who toiled in the residence hall today will be eating breakfast miles apart.
Maureen and Michael Davis are old move-in pros from years of assisting their older daughter, Heather, now in graduate school. They say, for parents, it’s all part of the same game. The more comfortable they make their son, Eric, while they’re here, the fewer sleepless nights for them in Davidsonville, Md., wondering if he’s missing the comforts of home. But from the looks of his room, they aren’t too worried.
“He’s got it pretty good here,” laughs Maureen, as she supervises Heather, now folding her brother’s clothes. “Maybe he’ll never come home.” She looks to Eric for a little reassurance.
“Don’t worry, Mom,” he says. “I won’t forget to visit.”