Karen Upton came all the way from North Carolina to give her best friend emotional support. Upton has known Soozi Allder forever, it seems, and wanted to be there for her in the days before Allder sent her only daughter, Jackie, off to college for the first time.
But on Wednesday night, a little more than 12 hours before the Allders hit the road for Philadelphia, it was Upton who couldn't hold back the tears. Her eyes grew red and misty as she watched the family pack the last few dorm-room necessities into the van.
"I'm just reminiscing," Upton said as she wiped her eyes. "I'm going to do it today so I can get it out of my system."
Soozi and Jackie playfully teased Upton for crying so early on. But both agreed that come Thursday, when mother and daughter say that one final goodbye before the van pulls away from campus and heads back home to Countryside, their eyes would also be wet with tears.
They planned to leave the house at 8 a.m. for the three-hour drive up to Philadelphia University. The school is small--about 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students. It specializes in materials technology, architecture, business and the sciences. Jackie, 18, said she plans to major in textile engineering, although that could change if she doesn't like the courses.
Although Jackie is the second child that Soozi and her husband, Bill Allder, have sent off to college, the sadness Soozi feels this time around is a little more intense, she admitted. Not only does she have to say goodbye to her daughter, she has to say goodbye to all of Jackie's friends.
Soozi, 47, is a college counselor at Potomac Falls High School in Sterling, the same school Jackie attended until graduation in June. Through her work, she came to know and love many of Jackie's classmates.
"Jackie shared her friends with me," Soozi Allder said. "When all these guys leave, it's going to be hard. I know them. I watched them grow up, some of them since kindergarten."
Jackie's boyfriend, Adam Kennedy, and her good friend Megan Rosenwinkeo stopped by the house Wednesday evening for dinner and some last-minute hanging out. Megan, who will be attending York College of Pennsylvania, says she'll be close enough to visit Jackie--regularly, she hopes.
Most of their friends had already left for school. It was strange, Jackie said, when they went out the night before and found themselves surrounded mostly by underclassmen.
"I watched everyone go," Megan said.
Jackie started packing last Sunday, after spending the last few weeks shopping. Soozi estimated that they spent more than $2,500 on a new computer, a bedspread, a trash can, plastic drawers, first aid supplies and anything else they thought she would need.
"I never bought my tennis shoes," Jackie suddenly remembered.
"Oh, damn," Soozi said.
Megan's solution? "Just buy them in Pennsylvania. There's no sales tax."
Jackie's brother Billy, a junior at Virginia Tech, said she could call any time she needed to talk. He told her he was proud of her and left some words of advice before he left for Blacksburg a few days earlier.
"He just said, 'Don't do what I did,' " Jackie said with a laugh.
"And don't party too much," Soozi added.
Bill Allder, 49, said he isn't worried that his daughter will repeat some of the same mistakes his son made early on in college. He knows she'll do well.
"They're different," he said. "Jackie's a little more responsible, probably a little more ready to go."
CAPTION: Jackie Allder hugs mom, Soozi.
CAPTION: Jackie Allder packs up to leave for Philadelphia University with help from her boyfriend, Adam Kennedy.