After a lovely 2-hour ride through verdant corn fields of central Ohio, we passed the Denison baseball stadium on our left. The last time we saw the stadium was on March 14 as we stood in frigid temperatures and snow flurries to watch the final game of the 2020 season. It was only the 9th game of the fledgling season, against a local college whose coach is the father of one of Denison's players. The game began with a senior tribute, a rushed but poignant sendoff for a talented group of players who had their sights set on leading Denison deep into the NCAA tournament last season before COVID ruined their plans. Coaches called the game after 4 innings as the weather was untenable and there was no point in continuing—the seniors received brief accolades, got one final appearance on the field, and college baseball was over.
Today, though, the diamond was untouched, with brilliant green grass and crisp field lines, awaiting a new season of Denison players to scuff them up. We turned right past the field into the East Gate as Josh was directed by his move-in instructions. There were just a few cars ahead of us for the 1:30pm time slot, and each car stopped at a small red tent staffed by two women in Big Red jerseys and face masks. We rolled down the window to meet our check-in assistant. She welcomed us, asked to see Josh's move-in barcode (which he could not present so she looked him up), and gave us basic instructions to keep our masks on at all times and stop at the subsequent tents for further instructions.
At the next tent, Josh had to produce a second badge to be scanned, and we all had our temperatures taken and answered questions about our health status at the moment. After passing that test, we moved on to another tent that handed out a small bag of PPE including masks, hand sanitizer and a thermometer, and then to a final tent where Josh got his room key and a cookie (only 1!) before heading to East Hall. At each stop, the attendant reminded Josh to wear his mask at all times except in his room, and that he wasn't allowed to leave campus for 14 days unless there was an emergency. Quarantine had begun.
The rest of the move-in was just like any other—we pulled up in front of his dorm, unpacked the van and hauled his belongings into his room. His roommate got out of bed to help (1:30pm) and we were done safely within the 30-minute time limit. There was no one in view policing the time limits, but there was also no reason to stick around any longer in a hot room wearing masks. Denison did receive a large gift from a donor to put portable air handlers in double rooms, so Josh will have to get used to the whir of the machine that oxidizes his air 24/7.
Since Josh couldn't leave campus, we did make a quick trip to Target to pick up a few items that he chose not to bring but now clearly wanted, dropped them back at his dorm and said quick, if just a little tearful, goodbyes. It felt strange to send him off with reminders about masks and hand washing, but he was smiling and eager to get unpacked, and it felt right to let him get on with it. There was plenty of time over the next two hours to debate whether or not going back to school was the right decision as made our way to Cleveland.
Hans and I tried to arrange this trip so that we could see a few friends along the way. We have been lucky to see some friends at home over the summer, but both of us have been feeling stir crazy never leaving our property. Our friends in Cleveland are incredible hosts, and this visit was no exception. They converted their back yard into a living room, complete with outdoor TV and comfortable furniture, fans and umbrellas. Grapefruit vodka gimlets were ready when we arrived, and we spent the next 5 hours catching up, listening to music and feasting on homemade pizzas straight from their outdoor pizza oven to the table. They thought of everything, including pie in honor of Hans' birthday, and if it hadn't been for COVID, our visit would have stretched long into the night.
Instead, we had made arrrangements to spend the night at a Hyatt about 10 minutes away. The hotel was quiet, cool and basically empty judging by the parking garage. We headed back to their house in the morning for a quick breakfast and short visit before setting off for Pennsylvania to visit Hans' brother. Back on the home front, Abby was saying goodbyes to her friends and packing up her car for the move to New Jersey. I'm not at all sure we made the right decision to have her pack up and drive herself to school, but we will meet her later in the week to help her settle in and make sure she's ready to launch into college. In the meantime, we get to spend 4 days in some of the most beautiful farmland I have ever seen and catch up with family whom we have sorely missed.
I can't wait to get there.