October 15, 2008

My Old School

You may or may not have noticed that I've been absent the last several days. I took the elder daughter around to look at some universities in which she has showed some relative interest. One of them was my alma mater, that PA school with the funny name. It was an interesting and mildly disorienting trip, during which I kept seeing students who reminded me impossibly of people I knew from a generation ago. Aside from those flashes of deja vu, though, the differences outweighed the similarities.

For one thing, my dorm is gone. And not just mine, but most of the rest of them too. Traditional dorms are being replaced by super fancy residence halls. Microwaves, once contraband, are now provided . The rooms looked nice, and security is a lot higher priority than it was ... okay ... here it comes ... BACK IN MY DAY.

It shouldn't have surprised me that almost nobody on the faculty back in the early 1980s is still around ... especially since I tended to gravitate toward the dead white men among the faculty when choosing my classes. Well, "be" has become finale of "seem," it seems, and even though a lot of those guys were probably younger then than I am now, they've moved on ... as I surely will have 26 years from now, assuming TIAA-CREF manages to get my retirement back on track sometime between now and then.

The only person I saw whom I knew was one of a small handful of good friends from the college years whom I still hear from (usually when an old prof dies); she teaches there now. It was a little disorienting in that the office she occupies is in a converted dorm in which she stayed one summer, and where I visited her on a couple of occasions. It was like being back there, sort of, except unlike me, she has aged a little (although very gracefully, I must add).

If somebody had told me back in '84 while we were sweltering on her single bed (platonically, always platonically--she was inexplicably resistant to my charms, as hard as that must be to imagine), watching Three's Company reruns on a 12" black and white TV on a summer afternoon, that we'd be sitting down the hall in her office talking about strategic planning, tenure and promotion, and the use of the SAT in the admissions process (platonically, alway platonically), I don't know if I would have believed it. Though I don't know how else it could have all turned out.

I see that the elder daughter is wearing her new T shirt with Alma Mater University's logo to school today. I have mixed feelings, but I guess I could think of worse things.


Rosemary said...

We just finished reading _My Freshman Year_ in a class I'm teaching this semester (excellent reading for anyone who teaches or administers in higher ed, BTW). In it, the author talks about the physical changes to dorms that you mention--how, in order to entice students, colleges are having to build more private, apartment-like spaces with all the amenities (or at least, with lots more electrical outlets and wireless internet).

So, I've had my share of "old school" moments recently, too, with my students looking at me like I'm insane when I talk about how only a couple people on my hall even *had* a TV in their room, and so forth.

And though I transferred to another college after my freshman year, I went back to the other place several years ago and also found myself looking around for familiar faces that hadn't been on that campus for 15 years.

What was really strange was that the campus seemed so much *smaller* than I remember it being. You kind of expect that when you go back to your elementary school as an adult, but obviously I was full grown when I went to college, so it was extra weird to have that sensation there.

NYMary said...

Awww, sweet.

I spent much of the late vacation at my old school library. Campus hasn't changed much, except for lots of new buildings. What concerned me was that I've apparently become a sage, since many young people approached me to ask ridiculous questions about where things were located in the library.

The fact that I knew all the answers is beside the point.

--S. said...

I don't know why I suddenly have that old Simon and Garfunkel song stuck in my head: "Nothing but the dead and dying back in my little town...".

I went to college where I grew up, so, at the time, I was constantly seeing familiar faces, but I could never quite tell whether I recognized them from college, high school, or just around town. But the last time I strolled around on that campus, no one looked even remotely familiar; they all just looked young.