Back from the lake cottage for a few days this week, I’ve been busy catching up on various domestic duties and chores. The lawn was mowed two days ago, was fertilized yesterday, and my office/writing room desk and book shelves and cabinets have been thoroughly “weeded out” and dusted. I’ve even found some time to plan out my next steps of getting back into a serious daily writing routine in the weeks ahead, after “Lake Season” ends on September 14, that is.
On an early morning jaunt to the bank this morning, not far from the Northern Illinois University campus, I couldn’t help but notice the number of college-age students seemingly everywhere. And after I stopped by for a quick visit to Wal-Mart, my suspicions were confirmed: It’s time for students to move in to begin classes for another school year!
In most of the young people I observed this morning, there seemed to be a happy glide in their stride—pep in their step—as they scoured the shelves for various items needed to get their new digs set up and in working order. There’s always something about the beginning of a new year that makes one feel pretty good. Oh, that the same spirited feelings could last a whole school year long!
Witnessing this annual student ritual, I set the Wayback Machine (Thanks, Mr. Peabody!) and shot back to late-August of 1968 where I was entering the world of college for the first time at Kent State.
Mom and Dad had driven me from our home in Illinois and had pretty much gotten me all squared away in my dorm room, with two other roommates. And then it was off to the bookstore for the humbling experience of buying books at such exorbitant prices, a ritual that I never will forget.
I still can picture my dad, his pipe clenched between his teeth, helping me lug the large shopping bags laden with all of the required textbooks for freshmen classes. I still have the big, heavy dictionary—Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language: College Edition—on the corner of my desk where I write this now. It’s rather startling to realize how many miles the thing has travelled along with me: All of my years at Kent (5); my classrooms all the years I taught (35); and years now in retirement (8).
As I recall, that move-in day so long ago was both exciting and scary. Yes, I was thrilled to finally be getting started on the next level of my life, pretty far from home though it was. To meet people who became friends was an important part of it, just as much as earning a degree eventually would be.
Experiences—good and not so good—would also factor into my life at KSU which were all beginning on that warm day in ’68. The day was scary in that my parents would be pulling away and driving home to Illinois, leaving me to trust myself to make good decisions and do the right thing when it mattered. I would basically be able to do whatever I—myself—chose to do, when I wanted to. I wasn’t sure I could operate under such a state of constant temptation, and that frightened me.
In retrospect, things turned out fine, but there were moments along the way where I was anything but trustworthy and doing the right thing. Call it all part of the growing up at that particular time of my life. I suppose there’s a blog post or two about some of those less-than-trustworthy moments at dear old KSU sometime down the road.
And today, watching these young folks going about their various tasks to begin their own quests to become the fine, mature, and productive citizens they’ll become later on, I couldn’t help but smile and be glad that it’s them—not me—going through all of this all over again. Once was enough!