You Can Go Home Again


A few months ago, I attended my 25-year college reunion. The weekend began with my son dropping me off in front of my dorm with my suitcase, all too aware that this scene would be replicated, only reversed, three months from now, this time with many more boxes and ending up with me being reduced to a gelatinous mound of tears as I watch my first-born embark on his great adventure.

He gave me a hug and whispered a very apropos "Welcome Home" in my ear. I turned to face the ivy-covered, gothic buildings filled with so many memories.

On this very campus, writing officially became my life. I had always written, of course, even was the editor of my high school newspaper, but walking into class on my first day in 1983, I made the commitment that no matter how difficult, unrealistic, and impractical everyone told me it was, I was going to be a writer.

Meandering through the old hallways, it struck me. I wrote my first real lines of dialogue here. My first short story good enough for publication. My one-act play. I heard my professors' voices echoing around me, the chairperson of the writing department reminding us so often that "I am not grading your work merely as student writers, but rather against all of the great writers who have come before you."

Talk about setting the bar high.

It was not enough to pass one's coursework and fulfill the necessary credit hours to receive a bachelor of arts in English. Oh, no. We also were required to compile writing portfolios and pass our comprehensive examination. If we failed, all of our work for the past four years would have been tossed out the window, and we would not have been allowed to graduate with an English major, regardless of our grade point average or credit hours. Studying for comps tested not only our knowledge, but our fortitude as well. To this day, the sight of a blue book makes my stomach do somersaults.

Several friends and I stayed in the same dorm wing, just like when we first met all those years ago, only this time in a newer building with air conditioning, a rare commodity on older college campuses. We shared hugs and conversation, falling easily back into our old patterns of picking each other up for meals or dropping by each other's rooms to hang out.

The Class of 1962 was also there celebrating their 50th reunion, as well as various other smatterings of alumnae/i commemorating incremental numbers. Although we ranged in ages, the stories remained the same. Sprinting across the Cloister Walk, late for early-morning classes. Feeling the hair on your nape stand at attention while walking  on the third floor of Power Hall, probably from one of the legendary Rosary ghosts floating by. Sneaking party supplies up the back stairways.

College life is romanticized in so many movies, novels, and television shows, most of the time fostering stereotypes that strike fear in the hearts of parents. And, certainly, experiences differ from institution to institution, from location to location.

But these years are really so much more.

Freed from their places of birth, unbound from their parent's choices, these new adults receive the greatest of gifts — time. Time to study, discover, and create the people whom they will become.

I am so excited for my son as he, along with all of the other members of the future Class of 2016 across the country, prepares for Moving-In Day.

Now it is their turn.



This post brought my university years flooding back and you are so right, four years at university gives us the greatest gift - time. Time and a relatively safe space to test out our wings before we enter the real world. It's a magical, hazy phase between being a kid and being an adult and I am so thankful to have been offered the opportunity.

I met some of my closest friends there - they become your family and they still are for me.

Great post and your son is going to have an amazing time!
Rosemary A. said…
Beautiful, Karen.
Kelly Hashway said…
Great post, Karen. Good luck to your son.
Janel Gradowski said…
Sometimes I regret not having a college experience like yours. I commuted from my parents' house to save money, instead of living in a dorm or apartment. While I did save money I didn't form any lifelong friendships like people often do.

Glad you enjoyed your reunion!
Richard Bon said…
This made me nostalgic for my own university. You're right, it's having that time to become whoever we become that makes such a difference.
Helen Smith said…
Oh wow! It sounds like a wonderful place.
Thanks so much for all of your lovely comments. It really was a wondrous time, both during the college years and just this past June.

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