There is something about the arrival of September that inevitably makes me feel too small for my shoes. It’s as if a homing beacon has been activated in my brain, and I’m unconsciously drawn to head North. Clearly, if I were a migratory species, I’d be the dumbest of the lot. It seems that the color of the sky changes. It becomes a clear, bright blue with infrequent, lacy clouds.
Once I start the feel the blistering heat of summer seeping away, I long for hooded sweatshirts and broken-in sneakers. I’m ready to retire my last sassy pedicure, and keep my worn toes covered for another few seasons.
I believe that my brain, still hardwired from 17 years of education, isn’t quite sure what to do with itself when it spies yellow school buses and back-to-school sales. It bombards me on a daily basis with split second images that make me yearn to pack up my worldly possessions in so many under-the-bed containers, and make the drive back to the dorms at my alma mater. To see the rush of humanity crammed into the bookstore during the first week of classes, the never-ending lines that the cashiers somehow managed to handle with cheer and grace. To take in the blank white walls and subtle chlorine smell of a brand new dorm room, a blank slate for decorations and adventures alike. To sling my backpack over a shoulder and make my way to the safe haven of the music building, where impromptu soap operas played out in the hall and the soundtrack was ambitious young people practicing, always practicing.
I miss the crisp air on my cheeks as I sat in the stands with friends, cheering on the football team. They usually lost in a dismal fashion, but the band made up for the disappointment. I remember the unique feeling of excitement the night of a party, the thrill of possibility as we primped and plotted. With little thought, I can call to mind the smell of the cafeteria on a weekend morning in the last minutes of brunch- we always made it just in the nick of time, and NOTHING smells as good as a fresh omelet when you’re hung-over starving.
Earlier this summer, I made a visit up to campus with BFF Katie, and was shocked at the amount of change that’s happened since we left. It seems like days, or hours, instead of years, and buildings have sprung up where there were fields of students playing Frisbee, studying and sunning themselves. When I’m lost in memory, I have to keep reminding myself that things have changed. My brain forcibly revolts at the idea of campus not being exactly the way it used to be. How could they fill West field with dorms? Don’t they remember how the mist used to hug the low ground there in the morning as we trudged to our 8am classes? North parking lot was ours, home to first the matching Roomie Cars (both maroon Oldsmobiles), and then my beloved Volvo. Now it’s only home to a shiny new science building.
For now, however, enough remains of campus for it to still look like home. My sorority house stands guard on the avenue on the way in, and the columned majesty of Seibert hall still remains a focal point. Somehow I fear that in the pursuit of More! Better! Change! something about the fabric of the school will be changed, and I’ll no longer be able to walk the tree-lined paths beside a younger incarnation of myself.
I admit that I miss it. The day-to-day monotony of being an adult pales in comparison with the sparkling clarity of those memories, and I can fully understand how so many give into the desire to return to being a student. To face the remainder of my years without sitting in a lecture hall, a used book in my lap and a wireless notebook (a necessity for lefties) on the table is too daunting an idea to grasp. Unconsciously, I’m still drawn to further learning, not necessarily in the academic environment. My desk has become a yoga mat, and the professor speaks quietly and melodically, lulling us all to peace. While I’m craving fluorescent lights and painful exams, current students are envying my classroom experience of lying with my eyes closed, in silence.
I’m settling into a new phase of life, one marked by stillness and nesting, instead of flight. I’ve traded rush functions, rehearsals and Sheetz runs (well, ok, not entirely the Sheetz runs), for culinary exploits and quiet evenings on the couch. Much as we did with blank dorm rooms, we’re making our mark on our own homes and creating our sanctuary from the daily grind.
That doesn’t stop my head from turning to the north when there’s a hint of chill in the wind, and my hands itch to drive beside the vast, sparkling river again.