Sunday, May 19, 2013

Going home again?

May 19, 2013

Dear friends,

Thank you, all of you who have sent comforting messages regarding my fatal incompetency in use of the “green house.” There was something deep and quiet and reassuring in your response that is difficult to describe in itself. I can, however, report its impact. I have decided to do three things: buy a thermometer so that I have some tangible way to measure the temperature of the interior of the “green house” when closed; remember that plants, like people, require ventilation, and, three, try again. Are you pleased?

College graduation ceremonies for my sister’s younger grandson were held this weekend on the college campus where I too completed my undergraduate work. A friend made it possible for me to attend. I returned home tired not only from the travel and the crowds but from the range and intensity of responses I experienced. There was, of course, joy and pride in the achievement of the young man who has reached this important life goal. There was sadness too that my sister’s death had preceded this special day. We missed her in thousands of ways throughout the joyful celebration we shared as a family.

But I also experienced a sharp sudden sense of recall and disorientation that was personally my own. The memory was triggered by a notice regarding summer school classes that was posted near the entrance to the auditorium in which the graduation ceremonies were held. I glanced casually at the notice as I walked by, then after a step or two, I suddenly became aware that in May, 1949, sixty-four years ago, I had first come to this same campus to begin college by enrolling in summer school. I was  young, naive, frightened; I was deeply uncertain about my capacity to learn and poorly prepared for the social challenges that lay ahead. I was, nevertheless, determined somehow, someway, to find my way and someday graduate. I was the first in my family to earn a college degree. When in the course of the ceremonies those graduates who were first generation graduates in the class of 2013 were honored, my eyes filled for a moment with uncontrollable tears.

I can’t yet explain the tears. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity and the amazingly sound education this undistinguished college made available to me. And I am astonished at times when I consider where my journey that began that long-ago summer school  has taken me over these nearly sixty-five years.

In appearance nearly everything has changed.

We came to the campus by way of the new freeway at a new exit marked as University Way. We entered the new gate to the new auditorium parking lot.  But yet . . .

In the distance I could see the giant old cottonwood trees that still lined Big Creek’s meandering path. They too had survived the changes and the passage of the years.

Not sure what I’m thinking today. . . Perhaps I am thinking what those trees are thinking as their wind-twisted gnarled old limbs lift tender young greening leaves once more into the spring sky.

See you next week.


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