I had no doubt about the importance of heading back to campus. It was a deep calling home, as if something in me as instinctive as the flight of a bird, knew to migrate, if only for 3 days, back to the place and the people of youth.
They say the adolescent mind is on fire. There’s a neurological reason for the photographic, visceral connection to the events of that time. Even as we’ve changed, learned knew skills, mapped new cities, made new friends and created our own families, the mind of our college days is etched into the brain. Take a piece of paper and pencil and gently rub—and the memory and identity of that time is brought back, like the words written on a soft wood table, careless scribbles that never knew they’d made indelible impressions.
The campus of Northwestern lines Lake Michigan. But it’s the trees that welcomed me back first, as they always did each morning I started on the meandering path towards class. Maybe it’s the wind off the lake that makes the trees talk, their leaves, while they still have them, rustling and setting a brisk pace: get to class--there’s something new to learn. Take a deep breath of cool lake air and it is a new day.
I’ve always felt a communion with the campus. I am humbled by the architecture, the Midwestern grace of classic and modern, formidable and approachable, old and new, and what it stirs inside, the sense that you are alive as an individual and as part of this organism of thought and thoughtfulness.
Then, the people. More than the football game, this was the Homecoming. There must be some physiological connection as powerful as the one in the brain, that senses these are your siblings, hatched at the same time, fed by the same struggle, and kicked out into the world at the same time not only in history but in your own life stories.
It was good to be in their presence. And it was even better to say how good it was to see them again, to learn, just a bit, about where life had taken them. But it didn’t matter what they did now, or what they’d lost, or what they’d won. It mattered that many years ago, when they were young and striving, and confused, and determined, that we’d been there together.
Something in the memory and script revealed on the table was made together. Now, because we where in the same place and with the same souls, we could feel that those memories were not distant dreams, but a real part of who we are today.
And those not with us at Homecoming, we missed you. You are part of that story, too.
This is part 1 of a 3 part series on Homecoming.
Thanks for reading. Click here for parts 2 and parts 3.