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The Collegiate Years.

graduating from Bucknell

More years ago than I can fathom, my parents drove me to little Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, where I would spend the next four years becoming myself.

I remember driving onto the Bucknell campus, and coming to a stop in front of Veddar Hall.  I remember feeling grown up and childish at the very same time. I remember that I couldn’t wait to climb those stairs.

My parents and I didn’t have to haul my worldly possessions up four long flights. Instead, the fraternity boys—assigned as stevedores for the incoming freshman—did us that favor. As you no doubt have already guessed (but I didn’t discover until later) the fraternity boys were also there to check out the new girls. I was too excited to notice.

My roommates and I were assigned to 4th Vedder East. I was nervous and filled with anticipation. I was definitely ready.

I remember unpacking my precious possessions carefully—my stuff!—and trying to respect the boundaries of my two roommates. We’d been assigned to the one triple on the hall and space was tight. In the pre-Facebook era, we’d sent letters to one another that summer, and spoken with each other once or twice on the landlines from our parents’ homes. Our mix was this: Elaine hailed from New Jersey; Diane, from Long Island, NY; I was most recently from North Carolina, but had called Virginia, Florida, and Pennsylvania home at various times through the years. In that respect I was alone at this school, surrounded by girls and boys who’d lived all their lives in lovely homes with sprawling lawns in New Canaan, CT, Madison, NJ and Brookline, MA.

I remember gathering with the entire class that first week, to hear President Sojka speak. I remember him telling us, essentially, how lucky we were. But I didn’t need to be told.

I remember bid day, standing on the porch of the sorority dorm, looking over the balcony with 39 of my new best friends. I remember singing the songs as loudly as we could, our arms wrapped tightly around each others’ shoulders, linking us together like one long caterpillar, as we swayed back and forth and sang along with the music blasting from the windows.

To this day I smile at the words Bungle in the Jungle, as I recall the fun frenzy of the party my sorority threw my sophomore year. I hear those words and I see my sorority sisters, all of us dressed in jungle-y attire, laughing and dancing and flirting with fraternity boys on the dark dance floor.

I remember the note pads the RA of our freshman hall put on all of our doors (pre-texting). I remember the notes left there by the boy I liked “Stopped by to say, hi,” he’d write, or “Sorry I missed you.”  I squealed and showed my roommates. And I saved those notes—every one—for all of these years. Sometimes, now, I pull them out and show them to my husband.  “Do you remember leaving these on my door?” I ask. He smiles.

I remember retreating to the beautiful academic quad to be alone with my sophomoric thoughts. I filled page after page in my flower-covered journals as I wrote down words to sort out my life. It was there, in the refuge of the quad, that I cried hard, bitter tears when my boyfriend broke up with me, where I later breathed in the fresh, sunny, hopeful air of spring, and, always, where I went to contemplate life’s big decisions.

I remember the sectional couch in our sorority suite. I remember snuggling in, pajama-clad, with girls who cared about me. We felt safe there, as we shared our hopes and dreams and, sometimes, fears. I can close my eyes and feel it, even now.

I loved the academic rigor. I’d never been in a classroom where people said what they thought with such force and feeling. I’d never met so many other eager students, desperate for knowledge and validation. I loved the conversations, the thoughts, the arguments.  I especially loved seeing something, hearing it, and understanding it in a new way for the first time.

I write these memories because Aidan Donnelley Rowley did so on her blog, and asked readers to share ours, too. So many of Aidan’s memories rang true for me, too, but especially this thought:

“They say you can’t go back, but the really amazing thing is that you can. You can sit in a Starbucks at 6:34am on a Friday morning in February with your cup of coffee and computer and your mind and you can go back.”

It’s 9:44pm here, on a Saturday night and I’m at home. I’m not drinking coffee, but Nut Brown Ale, and still, she’s right. I can close my eyes and remember it so clearly. I can go right back.

What about you? You can read Aidan’s memories, and join her conversation, here.

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