When he heard a door bang the other night, Scott Jones looked up happily: Who was coming to visit? Used to a house full of his teen-aged kids, laughter, noise, lacrosse sticks dropping, constant visitors and endless chatter, a door opening usually meant yet another friend stopping by.
Then he remembered. College had started. The house was quieter than quiet, emptier than empty.
Four of Scott and Deeann Jones’ children began freshman year at the same time. At the same school.
The quadruplets had each written their top five colleges on an index card and showed their parents the lists. Each one — Jake, Rachel, Lexi, and Hannah — had independently singled out Randolph-Macon College as their top pick.
And each one — Jake, Rachel, Lexi, and Hannah — got in.
So the family stuffed their minivan and a 10-foot U-Haul trailer with color-coded boxes, full of four sets of sheets, four sets of towels, four sets of soccer and lacrosse gear, four sets of clothes, and 100 boxes of ramen noodles. They drove three hours, give or take, to unleash the four 17-year-old Joneses on Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va.
Quads are unusual. Quads all picking the same school are even more startling — especially since two of them are identical twins, amplifying the sense that there’s a Jones around every corner of the small campus, which is home to about 1,400 students.
(School officials believe there is only one other set of freshman quadruplets out there this year, a water-polo-playing quartet from Miami that enrolled at Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y. this fall.)
“Whenever people meet us, they’re like, ‘Oh my God, that’s crazy,'” Jake said.
It takes a little while for it to sink in. Then they have four times the amount of small talk and expected questions: Do you like being a quad? What’s it like being the only boy?
Also: How in the world are your parents paying for this?
(Savings. Financial aid. Merit scholarships. And it’s still painful.)
From the very beginning — when the ultrasound image stunned the parents so much that Scott Jones remembers telling people about it as a funny story as though it weren’t actually happening to them — the four have been pretty inseparable.
Their bottles and baby gear were color-coded, colors that stuck with them all the way to college. Jake, blue. Rachel, purple. Hannah, yellow. Lexi, turquoise (amended at some point from red, so that hers, too, would be her favorite color.) When they were toddlers, their parents emptied a room of furniture, put gates up, and just let them play together. “It was almost like the zoo,” Scott Jones said. “Put some balls in there, throw in some stuffed animals, watch them go after it.”
The quads played together, watched movies together, did homework together. So maybe it’s not a surprise that they all thought their parents’ alma mater, Washington College, literally almost in their backyard in Chestertown, Md., was too close to home.
They all thought a college they visited in Florida was too far away. They all wanted to try out for soccer and lacrosse teams, so they didn’t want a Division I school. They all liked that Randolph-Macon felt friendly and welcoming, with a small-town feel that was familiar.
They all got the same “congratulations!” e-mails. So the family began planning for the Jones deployment: Lists, shopping, boxes.
One night before they left, Scott Jones could barely hear the game he was trying to watch on TV because the quads and their friends were talking and laughing so loudly. He was about to ask them to pipe down when he realized how much he was going to miss that sound.
At Randolph-Macon, the four were all assigned to the same dorm, the girls in a suite, Jake down the hall with a friend from high school. They were all, mercifully, on the first floor.
After a day of lugging and unpacking and figuring out which box went with which kid, they all realized that this was it. The trailer was empty.
The parents said goodbye, everyone started to cry (except maybe Jake, who turned away), and they drove off.
Olivia Jones, the 12-year-old who might have been even more of a surprise than the quadruplets, is now getting used to being an only child. Deeann Jones is trying to stop throwing a dozen Italian sausages on the grill for dinner. The house, no longer the neighborhood teen hangout, is still.
On campus, the quads found out this week that they all made the soccer teams. The girls’ coach asked them if they could read each others’ minds.
“We’ve been playing together so long,” Rachel said, “we can tell what we’re up to, what we’re going to do next … where we’re going on the field, and connect passes.”
At college, though, they’re pursuing separate interests. Hannah wants to be a physical therapist, Rachel said she wants to be a child psychologist or counselor, Lexi likes to write, and Jake hopes to be a coach or athletic director someday.
“I think we’re definitely going to split up more,” Rachel said. “In high school, we were all in the same classes. Now none of us have classes together. We’ll be meeting more people, spending more time apart. We’ll create more space. It’ll be nice.”
Jake thinks he’ll be hanging out with the guys on the team, not his sisters, most days.
“But I’ll always see them at night,” he said.
“We usually all get together in the evening to watch movies, do homework,” Rachel said. Why stop now?
“The girls room is the hangout room,” Jake said. “It’s always packed.”