My oldest transferred to Mizzou this semester and I tagged along to help move him in. I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of memories as we pulled up to North Hall, which is right about where my old dorm, Jones, once stood (that has to be a sign— he’ll walk the same paths I walked in my glory days).
Those memories came flooding back (wait – is this where Jones was? It doesn’t look the same— I feel like we’re on the wrong street. This must be the wrong street …). Yes! The stadium, where it’s always been. This IS the beloved street where I spent my first year at Mizzou.
Driving through campus, was like going back in time (to someone else’s school … for real, did we get off on the right exit? This is Columbia, right? Columbia, Missouri?). Wait! The columns!!! This IS Mizzou! I was overcome with nostalgia as we drove (et tu, Taco Bell? Yeah, you’re right where I left you, but I’d never pick you out of a crowd. For all of the Accounting classes I happily skipped to spend time with you, and the late night 7 Layer Burritos that I can’t even FIND on your menu anymore … you’ve changed).
And with each step I took on campus, I felt the weight of my backpack (on my right shoulder, only … yes, Gen Z, you will pay for that mistake later … #shoulderandneckstrainisreal) as I was transported back to my college days. “Right around that corner is the rec center … wait! Did they seriously move it??? I swear it used to be right here!”
And can we talk about the rec center for just a moment? Did we have a lazy river snaking through tropical greenery in our day? (Did I just use the phrase, “in our day”?) How about a 24 person hot tub, hmmm? When I went to school there, swimmers used the pool. It was not a gathering spot for recreation. Believe me, Mizzou. Has. Changed.
We parked and unloaded (and unloaded, and unloaded. I went to college with a few suitcases, a backpack, and a bed-in-a-bag. Dorm decor has evolved.). This particular trip down memory lane was quick as my son was happy to have help unloading everything but setting up the dorm? Apparently, middle-aged-mom isn’t a pleasing aesthetic.
I headed back down Highway 40 East, sparked by lukewarm recollections of college years well spent. I can only hope my kid is left with such sweet memories as he makes his mark here. (Who am I kidding? He won’t forget. He’ll have a YouTube video of all the highlights and aesthetically pleasing selfies of all the rest. Me? I have an envelope of negatives and a stack of grainy photos with a redeye aesthetic. Oh! And Party Pics! Because if there wasn’t a Party Pic, did it really happen??).
As Thomas Wolfe so famously said, “You can’t go home again.” Home is more than just a place. It’s the moments carved from life and the people surrounding you. It is Boone’s Farm wine and Toad the Wet Sprocket at the Blue Note. It’s listening to mixed tapes of the Gin Blossoms and Pearl Jam on your Walkman. It’s appreciating the true value of quarters— so valuable, for laundry and late night game play. It’s Trivial Pursuit, where the more you drink, the more “right” your answers are. It’s the people who held your hair back when you had too much fun and the people who stayed up until dawn because no one wanted the conversation to end. It’s the finals you weren’t ready for that still haunt you in your stress dreams to this day.
College isn’t the exit you get off on the highway, and it isn’t the dorm you settle into. It’s an experience— and even though my son’s dorm is WAY nicer than mine ever was (suites with bathrooms?) and the food on campus will never leave him hungry (Starbucks and sushi?), the things my son will remember are the friends that he made and the life they lived together. I hope when he drops his kids off at college, he’ll still be in touch with those friends and feels the urge to reach out and reminisce. And even if they’re not in touch, they’ll know that they’ve forged a place in his heart because those friendships during college are made of so much more than any other friendship he’ll ever make. I hope he makes a home for himself on campus that is so welcoming, he’d rather be there than anywhere else.