Birds and Words has just returned from a full-fledged Nostalgia Tour.
This is my old dorm, Hope College, where I lived in 1994-1995, fourth floor, fourth window from the right, for those of you who are extremely curious. I’d been resisting a trip back to my undergraduate haunts because I feared I’d have a Chekhovian-style emotional meltdown (a la Ranevskaya, from The Cherry Orchard) and would walk around wailing, “Good bye, My Precious Youth! Farewell!”
Thankfully, I managed to maintain a modicum of decorum. I will admit to one truly melodramatic outburst, which took place right as I was taking a photo of my old dorm: I wanted to share the extent of my nostalgia with a passing janitor and proceeded to tell him all about my old dorm room, how much I missed it, how much I loved my undergraduate years, and how happy I was to be in Providence again, and he responded by telling me this was the first snow fall they’d had this early in the season since 1978. No mention of my dorm room, no response to my tear-stained voice. Perhaps the world really had moved on since I graduated back in 1997.
I did go a little overboard on my nostalgia-induced shopping spree, including two pounds of freshly roasted coffee (and a mug) from my favorite coffee shop on Wickenden St., The Coffee Exchange, and a t-shirt from the Brown bookstore. I showed my husband all three dorms I lived in, the rare books library where I once worked, the music department where I played my first chamber music concert (Beethoven’s trio for clarinet, cello and piano), the library where I first read The Brothers Karamazov, the cafeteria where I ate brown rice with lentils for the better part of a year, but it tasted ok because the company was so good… I could go on and on, but even my dear husband lost interest in the minutiae of my nostalgia, so I’ll stop here.
I did squeeze in a walk around campus at 7:30 am one morning — I wanted to have campus to myself, to feel like it was mine again. The strange thing is that I found myself paying attention to things I never would have noticed as a student, 15 years ago: morning light bathing the Georgian buildings, a sparrow of one persuasion or another stopping in its path, head tilted upward, calling out to his companion, autumn leaves reddening past a brightness I recognized. The place belonged to me then, certainly, but I was also surprised to recognize that it also belongs to me now in fuller, more nuanced hues. Perhaps the passing of time has its own advantages.
We returned home via Boston and made an obligatory stop at the MFA. I came home with Audubon bird note cards (hardly surprising). Not something I would have chosen in the mid 90s, but then again, I didn’t know what I was missing.