Everyone kept asking, "Are you here for graduation?"
Kate was never sure what to say because the obvious and truthful answer was, "No." But it wasn't so obvious because, after all, what else was going on that second week in May? And if one wasn't in town for graduation, why not come visit some other week? When there was enough time for explanations, Kate gave her well-rehearsed speech: "Mister is done teaching for the semester, so it's a perfect time to leave for our summer trip. And we wanted to visit his siblings--his brother, Jack, lives in town, and Bettina goes to Hillsdale. So this was the time that worked out for all of us...even though we don't know anyone who's graduating."
When there wasn't enough time for that explanation, Kate simply said, "We just wanted to visit." Oddly enough, her first response got many more confused responses than her second.
Kate was mildly surprised to find that, compared to last year's trip, the campus didn't feel more foreign. But what was different was bringing a baby. It would have been nice to just wander around all the old haunts, retake special walks, and stay up late just for old time's sake. But Kate and Mister were traveling with a baby now. They got up early--which didn't necessarily preclude staying up late, but it certainly meant they got tired earlier! And (also somewhat of a surprise to her) Kate did not resent this shift in priorities. She wouldn't trade the grown-up mommy lifestyle, even with all it's limitations and responsibilities, for the more freewheeling (but less meaningful) college days.
The strangeness of being there was summed up in Mister's words as he and Kate strolled through the Arb and up the hill back to campus. "Sure, it's nice being here," he said in response to a query from Kate. "But it doesn't seem important. It's really great to see people, but being on campus..." he shrugged as he looked around, "it's full of good memories, but it's not relevant."
Kate nodded. That's exactly what she was feeling. Nice, but not relevant. "So do we have a main purpose in being here?"
"Sure. To see the people we care about. And between siblings, church friends, and professors, that's a larger goal than we could reasonably expect to accomplish..."
"So we just prioritize and see as many people as we can?" Kate felt a little panicky and overwhelmed just at the thought. Would she have enough energy for all this visiting? Would she get any time with Peg--after all, she would be happy spending the whole week visiting just her!
Mister nodded. "It makes for a busy rest of the week, and we'll try to fit in whoever we can, and then just be content with what God gives us. We've already seen a lot of people," he reminded her. Mister put his arm around Kate and read her thoughts. "Don't worry dear, it won't be too much, we'll make sure we get plenty of rest and down time."
Kate nodded. "I just want to make sure we get some good time with the Evans too...though I suppose it's silly to worry about. I worry about it every time Peg and I get together, and we always end up getting more than I expected."
Except for that day, Kate and Mister didn't spend much time on campus. Mister met with a couple of his professors, and Kate got to see her music professor briefly. But in the 15 minutes that they got to talk, Kate felt that she and Mister had truly crossed the boundary between students and professors. Mister was teaching classes. He was working on his dissertation. They were thinking about family and jobs and desirable locations. Mister echoed these thoughts after they reunited. "It is strange to be a professor now, and share stories about students, or thoughts about curriculum or grading policies. But also exciting...to feel that I know enough now to contribute something new and different to a conversation with one of my old profs."
As they drove on to the next leg of their journey, Kate reflected on their time.
"Maybe it's not that Hillsdale is totally irrelevant to us now...maybe we just have to consider that it's relevant in a new and maybe unexpected way. You know. The college matters more now in a different way, because you're going into academia, and want to learn from the faculty you know...but now you want to learn from them as colleagues, not teachers, and see what they have to show you about teaching and researching and family life in academia." Mister nodded in vague assent while she continued, "And the good memories are great and fun to remember, but there are new memories now....or maybe blended memories."
"What do you mean....blended memories?"
"Well, going to the Udder Side to get ice cream or burgers made a lot of different, fun memories for me...but now we've gone with Bettina. It's new, but old too. Same with Bettina and Jack coming to dinner at the Evans. It's a blend of old and new. And walking up through campus during the graduation and seeing some old classmates and all their children! It was nice to be back and feel the passing of time not just in relating to professors more personally, but also in seeing some of our peers and how they also have moved on into a new stage of life. It's exciting, and fun to think that so many of us are sharing that new stage, even though we're not together on campus anymore."