Monday, August 25, 2008

memories of a degree.

When I saw them coming--in their vans, their SUVs, their pick-up trucks--I had a flashback.

Suitcases. Halogen floor lamps. Full-length mirrors. All manner of Rubbermaid containers.


Lines and lines of vehicles, each jammed full of all the bits and pieces of a life of eighteen years. A simultaneously worried and excited face peering out from the back passenger window. Eyes gazing up, and down, and to the left, and to the right.


Tents, carts on wheels, name tags hanging from the well-versed habitants of this place. Signs pointing to various locations/help points/parking spaces.


"Excuse me," she says, her daughter by her side, timid, but trying to be brave. "Can you tell me where the Union is?"

I smile. I look into her eyes and see A Mother Letting Go.

"Sure. How 'bout I take you there?"

A look of surprise. And relief.

"Oh, thank you," she says.

Mother and daughter, and father, too, walk with me towards the destination. They're from twenty minutes away. She's their first. And only. They've heard such wonderful things about the university. She wanted to come here. Because it's wonderful. Communications. Non-profits. Those are the possible paths she'll take.


I stand on the tenth floor of the parking garage, and I look out of the big window by the elevators. I see the campus. The people, small and many. The vehicles still making their ways to the unloading zones.

And I remember when it was My Turn. As if it were yesterday. But it was eleven years ago. My current place of study, my current place of employment...I cannot leave this place. My first year as a freshman here was not my first year as a freshman. I'd dropped out of the first university I went to--homesickness, feeling out of place, and good old-fashioned fear led to my departure. I came here for Freshman Year Number Two. And it changed my life.

I remember the way my father packed the trunk and backseat of the car so methodically that I was convinced he was, in fact, an engineer and not a steel worker. The way he planned the journey--all thirty minutes of it--so that stress was not an option, but organization and a well-thought-out experience were. I remember the way my mother put non-perishable foods in a grocery bag and tied it tight, to keep it safe, before it arrived in my dorm room after the journey on the interstate.


The love I felt from my parents--even my mother, despite her illness--made it possible. Made me want to stay and learn and grow and be brave and meet people and change my life into the life it was supposed to be. My parents. My.Beautiful.Parents. They cheered for me in my Freshman Year Number Two.

I did it. I went to college. I had their love and my brain and our courage. I survived.



And today, as the freshman went to class for the very first time, I whispered a prayer for each and every single one of them. To be brave. To grow. To reach out. And in. Of themselves and towards themselves. To have peace and a place.

To let this place be for them the saving grace it was and is for me.

Yesterday's Gratitude:
1. rest
2. a clean apartment
3. faith
4. a healthy breakfast of soft-boiled egg and toast
5. getting to bed early

with love from Pittsburgh,

5 lovely bits o' feedback.:

Ross said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Be the change..... said...

I think it's funny how we all experience this first 'newness' -whether it be first day at college or first day in your own apartment away from home. We all experience it yet everyone's feelings are so different and vivid. I had a similar first day as you described, the one homesick call home the first night and then I moved on. I sometimes wonder how my parents feel about that.

just me said...

Those flashbacks are beautiful.

Mine is more like:

Flashback --

Lugging heavy trashbags up steps as drunk kids watch and laugh.

Anonymous said...

love your mug shot. :)


Rachal said...

Sometimes I remember my first day at K, right after returning from three weeks living in the Canadian woods, and how completely overwhelmed and unprepared I felt. And then I remember how quickly I took on everything college threw at me. It's amazing how adaptable we are, huh?