Thursday, June 6, 2013

Kate Miller 25: Visiting the Alma Mater

Road tripping at 5 months pregnant might not be most people's idea of fun, but Kate had never been "most people." 

25. Visiting the Alma Mater
            It was a gray and dismal Tuesday morning. But, Mister had turned in his last paper for the year, so his semester was finished. And in a few hours, Kate and he would embark on the first of two lengthy summer trips. The car was packed, the water bottles filled, the gas tank full, the CDs and books stashed in conveniently reachable places. Kate loved road trips. Getting out of the city, seeing the countryside, having all that time to think or talk or listen to music. There was something so refreshing and reminiscent about it. And this would be an especially reminiscent trip because their first destination was Hillsdale College, where Mister and Kate had met and inexcusably taken three (plus) years to fall in love.
college days: studying with friends
It was strange to walk around campus, having it look so much the same, and yet feel so different. Finals were over, and the campus was high with giddy students recently freed from the bondage of homework, classes, and grades. Kate and Mister didn’t know any students at the college now, except for Jack, who was graduating that weekend, and Bettina, who was finishing her freshman year. And occasionally, they ran into some brothers or sisters of their own classmates, and it was pleasant to see them, but there was no doubt that Kate and Mister did not “own” campus as they once had. Kate and Mister were only guests now, even if familiar ones.
Kate ran into her old freshman dorm and down the hall. Bettina’s door was right next to her old room. She peeked inside and gave Bettina a big hug amid the chaos of end-of-semester organization and packing. The rooms had been completely redone, and were, without a doubt, much nicer than when Kate had arrived eight years ago. But she resisted the urge to comment on Bettina’s good luck. This is her college experience now, not mine. And it’s going to be different in more ways than just her dorm setup, Kate reminded herself.
college days: "Kate" and "Mister" swing dancing in Howard
Kate walked to Howard, the beautiful music building, and wandered all over. It was mostly deserted now, except for a few students practicing for the last recitals and concerts of the season. How well Kate remembered practicing for her own senior recital! Hours upon hours in these very rooms, hours of conversation on those couches. She took a deep breath. Everything smelled exactly the same, just as it should. Upstairs, she remembered her years of performing, attending concerts and classes, swing dancing, and goofing off with friends. There were serious talks, wild escapades, midnight practice sessions after hours, and the surprisingly pleasant memories of getting up very early and setting up in a corner to read and memorize Scripture.
As it was for most of their college experience, Mister and Kate followed their own reminiscences, meeting up periodically through the morning and afternoon, but at the end of the day, walking hand in hand. Though most professors weren’t in their offices, either by odd coincidence or divine providence, Kate was able to see and visit with all the professors that had been on her list. Kate and Mister ran into a favorite English professor and his wife outside the concert hall just before the orchestra finished. Neither couple had attended the concert, but both were there. How delightful it was to surprise them with her very obvious baby bump, to talk about normal life, to talk as friends. When they left, Kate slipped her hand through Mister’s strong arm and lifted her face to the evening breeze. It was fragrant and sharp, carrying old dreams and poignant remembrances. She smiled and said, “I like our life now.”
the flowering trees on graduation day
The morning of graduation day, Kate met one of her old music professors for coffee. She was a dear, quirky lady, who grew up on a Cherokee reservation and worked hard to make something of herself. When she saw Kate, she clapped her small round hands with delight and reached out to pat Kate’s tummy, but then paused, “Oh! May I?” she said, seriously. Kate consented with a laugh.
“I brought something for you—well, for the baby,” she corrected herself.
Kate pulled a hand knitted dark green sweater out of a bag. “Beautiful!” she exclaimed.
“I made this a few weeks ago, and I didn’t know who it was for. I just knew it was for someone. And then when I saw you the other night, I knew. It had to be for you!”
Kate reached over and squeezed her hand in thanks. “It’s wonderful. I love it.”
“Well! Tell me about everything…” Kate’s professor demanded jovially.
Kate talked about pregnancy, and teaching piano, and writing music, and writing stories, and about friends and changes. “It really is wonderful to be back,” she mused, “But I don’t miss it, you know. Not like I might have (or did) a couple years ago. I loved my time here and my friends and the fun we had and the work we did. But what I have now…” Kate thought of Mister and their home and their baby boy coming in the fall, “…what I have now is so much better.” 

1 comment:

  1. We felt exactly the same when we visited Hillsdale last summer. It wasn't "ours", even though the smells and sights were the same. Interesting isn't it, how you think (while you're there) that you never want to leave...and then find out that you're kind of glad you did. :)