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Chaos, emotion and new beginnings

The mad scramble of moving into the dorm can't distract parents or students from the weight of this day.

August 27, 2011|Rick Rojas

8:20 a.m

Already, a line is starting to snake around the quad of freshman dorms on the campus of Loyola Marymount University. It's move-in day.

The short drive to the dorms is now a half-hour excursion, followed by a line to get in, and a line to get on the elevator to get upstairs -- if you live in a dorm with an elevator.

It's a bit of a pressure cooker. Parents are leaving their children behind; students are living on their own for the first time. Some parents try to veil their emotions by being extra bubbly, others do so with grumpiness. As for the teens, there are a few brave ones out there. But quite a few have that deer-in-the-headlights look: They're nervous about what comes next.

9:38 a.m.

It's been a long day already, said Alexandra Liddiard. She's in her new room on the third floor of Desmond. It's a women's dorm, the hallways already plastered with flowers and colorful decorations.

As an only child, this will be the first time she's had to share a room. She and her mom, Paula, are making the bed.

"Poor Dad's out there hauling everything for us," Paula said.

Then, as if on cue, here he is -- carrying a refrigerator. How did he get it up here? "One step at a time."

10:03 a.m.

Nick Watkins is waiting to meet his roommate. The two had only messaged on Facebook. (Nick's bringing the Xbox; they're going 50-50 on a new TV.)

His mom, Terri, is helping him unpack. She's trying not to get emotional.

"It's time for him to spread his wings," she said.

Down the hall, Geriann Heslin isn't as sentimental. She has five children and has been through this twice before. Her son, Bob, is off applying for a work-study job and she stayed behind, folding his shirts.

"My first one, I cried all day. My second, I cried for an hour. My third, I haven't cried at all," Heslin said with a laugh. "I love him, but we're ready."

And she's not worried about him: Both she and her husband went to Loyola Marymount, and her older son -- No. 2 -- is there too. And Bob's an outgoing guy, she said. He already put a big clay turtle wearing a sombrero outside his window -- it's a conversation starter, he told her.

10:20 a.m.

A few doors down, Ali Saleh and Jordan Turner meet for the first time.

They hadn't been able to find each other on Facebook. And for some reason, Jordan got a wrong number for Ali.

"I was just hoping he would show up," Jordan said.

Things are going smoothly already. It worked out that Ali brought the TV and Jordan the fridge. They were checking whether they had the right cords to get the TV working.

Ali has a nervous look in his eyes, antsy about the new digs and the transition that comes with it. Still, he said: "It's a new life. I'm ready to start."

10:45 a.m.

Christina Dodson and Sarah Freeberg had the same kindergarten teacher, went to the same schools and swam for the same swim team. So it seemed only natural that the two would go to the same college and share the same room.

They're unpacking and decorating their new digs. It's the first time either has shared a room.

"I think it will be interesting, and a change," said Christina. "Everyone's used to their personal space and that's being redefined.

"It'll be fun -- I hope," she says.

Her mom, Linda, worried if she would be all right on her own.

"You kind of worry that she'll be well off," she said. "That she is eating right and studying right."

She begins to tear up. A new chapter for Christina also brings big changes for her.

"OK, now what do I do with my life?" she said. "I've always been a mom."

4:20 p.m.

A cool breeze is picking up, the chaos on the Westchester campus dying down. It's the other side of move-in day.

Some are just arriving. A few parents are lingering. Many of the freshmen have already showered and moved on to relaxing on their bedding, with that fresh-out-of-the-package smell, and trying to get to know some of the nearly 1,300 strangers who surround them.

A group of guys, crowded into one room, are hanging out.

They offer commentary on the girls who pass by the window ("She's hot"); compare protein supplements ("Do you use whey?"); talk about weightlifting and sports ("Does anybody play lacrosse?").

Up a flight of stairs, Katie Matthews drops by Riley Mostrom's room. The two met at orientation and became friends.

"You think you probably won't find people like your friends in high school, but you realize there are more people out there," Katie said. "It kind of feels like we're at camp."

But Riley notes that the feeling won't last.

Classes begin Monday.

rick.rojas@latimes.com

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