I always have it in September.
I loved school. Not elementary or high school though.
How I loved college. I finally found a place that suited me completely. The atmosphere of learning. The very air charged with intelligence.Living right where you went to school. Walking to classes. The pride of reading. And reading for hours. For days. For years.
I probably should have been a college professor, so I could stay forever.
And every September, I want to go back.
(I think next year I really will… as soon as I decide whether I want to speak French or study philosophy or archaeology or watercolor or….)
But in the meantime, I will reminisce.
I learned so many amazing things in college, but my most precious memories do not concern linguistics or 19th century history. My best memories are of just a few moments in time when I knew I was in the best place on earth.
First up: The best laugh I ever had in College. (I have told my dog story before, but I must include it here too.)
I always liked a window seat in class. It made for better day-dreaming in Elements of English Phonetics. (Yeah, I took that. A snooze-fest.) So a window seat was required.
So one glorious afternoon, I’m gazing out the window. I’m watching a dog chase the falling autumn leaves. He’s happy. Running in circles and barking at leaves seems to be a very nice dog occupation. Along comes a guy on crutches, leg in a big white cast. The dog runs up, tail wagging, and grabs the end of one crutch. It seems another favorite past-time for this doggy is tug-of-war. He’s pulling and jumping, and the poor dude is trying to balance on one leg, and desperately trying to get the dog to let go of the crutch. It is great fun – for the dog. I thought I might have to run from the classroom (I wish) and rescue the guy. But finally another student comes along and pulls the dog away and holds him while the crutches guy makes a getaway. I’m smiling.
Four minutes later. Along comes a blind girl with a cane. I’m not kidding. And I’m thinking, Oh NO! And sure enough, here comes Doggy, tail a-wagging. He grabs the cane and pulls and tugs, and the poor blind girl is wrestling and appears to be hollering for help. And eventually a couple of kids run over and save her. Doggy finally – and happily – goes trotting off.
I’m laughing now, as I was laughing then. That dog just wanted to play, and he was one lucky dog. He found TWO people in a row with STICKS!
And here is the most beautiful sound I ever heard in college.
There was a girl in my dorm whose boyfriend could whistle. And I don’t mean the kind that construction workers toot or what I use to call my dog. No. This boy’s whistle was a masterpiece.
And he didn’t whistle some snappy little jingle either. He would whistle classical compositions.
His Schubert and Bach were gorgeous. I felt the melodies in every nerve ending in my body. My fingertips would tremble when I heard him.
He came over almost every evening to study with his girlfriend. He would leave about eleven, and walk past my window and up the hill to his own dorm. And he would whistle.
I am unable to describe the beauty of Debussy — starting out strong under my window, and growing fainter, but just as thrilling, as it rose up the hill and crested and lingered.
I often wept back then, in the dark, at the exquisite and haunting concert.
Part of me wanted to marry that boy and listen to his songs forever, but mostly I was just happy that he existed and I had the privilege of hearing him.
(By the way, his girlfriend did marry him, and they are still married… more than 40 years later.)
And lastly, here are the sweetest words I ever read in college:
UConn offered a Poetry class. Not poetry reading or appreciation, although we did plenty of that too. But poetry writing. It was taught by Marcella Spann Booth, who had worked with Ezra Pound.
There was limited enrollment for this class. You had to apply and be accepted by Dr. Booth. And I was one of the fortunate dozen chosen to participate my last semester on campus.
How those young men and women could write! I could hardly wait each week for the delight of reading something new and fresh and amazing.
And I was not disappointed. But in all that talent there were two students whose words have stayed with me all those years.
One young women, whose name and face I do not even remember, came in one day with a poem that started:
Last year, the blackbirds beat me to the cherries.
All these years later, I still think that is lovely and evocative image. I love the very feel of those words.
And even more memorable, there was a guy in the class whose poetry made me wince – but in the best way possible. His poetry was raw and sharp. He could cut you with his words.
I still remember a whole stanza from a poem I loved right down in my soul. He wrote about his girlfriend’s ambivalent sexuality:
There’s a postcard of a painting
On the wall above the bed.
She put it up yesterday.
Two satyrs lead a maiden off to sex.
The rhythm. The simplicity. It stunned me.
And I think about this too: That we write to preserve our thoughts. To share something that will last. And this piece of a poem was discussed for perhaps half an hour – forty-three years ago.
And I remember it.
I would say it has lasted.
Here is a classical whistler, Eric Aranow, performing Clair de Lune by Debussy. I would suggest you close your eyes and just listen. Imagine this is the last thing you hear before you fall asleep.
PS – For those of you whose eyes do not glaze over at the thought of poetry, I am attaching the link to my poem about my teacher, Marcella Spann Booth, and her rumored relationship with Ezra Pound. Marcella
Maybe, just maybe Eric Aranow IS your dorm-mate’s boyfriend. This was a lovely post. I too loved being in college…so much that I went back 10 years later and got my MBA for no discernible reason other than to be in school..and 20 years after that I went back and got a degree in Library Science even though I could never find permanent work in that field. And I’d go back again…but it’s only been 8 years…
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I did also go back and get an MBA. So I was an English major who ended up a financial executive. I liked it, but I am glad to be back to writing. As far as the young whistler – he sounded much the same, but I actually do know his name and where he lives. I am glad to say that he is well.
I really enjoyed this!
I loved college, too, and also went back for several more degrees (including, Dawnkinster, a Library Science degree that I finished a few years before the crash, when library jobs were still plentiful). I even taught college for a couple of years. But it’s impossible to recapture the wide-eyed, novel experience of being an undergraduate–that late-adolescent time of life when your senses are so acute, every day is a an adventure, and you have the social luxury of living in an entire community of peers.
Yes, I’m afraid now I would feel self-conscious rather than freed. But who knows? It would be wonderful to find out. I do know that I went back to my old campus for a weekend course about 5 years or so after I graduated – and I loved it so much, I cried when I had to go home.
Great memories loved all those stories. ❤
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It takes me back to some good times. I was surrounded by music, but I was a couple of years short on appreciation of the whole college experience. Staying out of Southeast Asia was more critical, unfortunately. Going back to school many years later I was a much better and more appreciative student. There are still words I remember from the first time, though.
Nice whistler, by the way.
I actually did take a year off between high school and college. It made me much more appreciative.
Reblogged this on ugiridharaprasad.
This is one of your loveliest posts ever. So evocative. Hit my nostalgia button hard.
Thank you so much for your kind words.
Wonderful post! Made me long to go back to that world!
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Sigh….I loved school too. High school included. I worked in the college library and loved (still love) the smell of books. Back in the day when you could walk back to where you live at night without being afraid. My school had a big green space in the middle of the campus and students would meet, greet, play, have meetings, dogs would play and the sidewalks intersected leading to many buildings where classes were held. Ahhhh…yes, I wish I could go back. Your post brought back many memories. And yes, since I was a teacher for 19 years, every September I want to buy school supplies! 🙂 I miss that.
I loved walking the campus…. day and night.
It was years before i got used to not going back to school in the fall.
BTW, the birds always beat us to the cherries
I remember lines in the poem about the blackbirds leaving the empty sacs in the grass. It was a sad image, but part of me was happy for the birds.
So refreshing to share your joy of school! This is not a message we hear every day, and yet many many people must share it. I occasionally toy with the idea of doing a PhD in something that’s absorbing me; the latest — to study the works of writers with aphantasia and hyperphantasia. (Ridiculous!) But like you I’ve got a lifelong curiosity which was not stamped out at school or university. Lucky us.
That sounds like it would be fascinating. I was always interested in studying language acquisition in babies, like Piaget. And Law. (strange combo)
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You get it.
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