Wow, am I running late today. I spent most of the morning driving around with my adorable, freezing children who have forgotten what life is like outside the desert. It was a frigid 40 degrees in Dallas today, and we wandered up to our alma mater to pay the place, and our old professors, a visit. I got to spend almost an hour blissfully alone, talking with one of my favorite professors. He teaches poetry, and was the first professor to recognize and vehemently encourage my poetic talent. Sadly, he came to UD about a year before we left Texas, so I only had one class with him, but we try to catch up every time I’m in Texas. He and his wife and daughters are going to Italy to teach the Rome program next year, so it’ll be a few years before I see him again.
It was really bittersweet to be on campus. It always is; I miss my college days and college friends with a nearly physical ache. It was one of the best times of my life, and I learned so much. At the same time, I had so many resources and so much knowledge available to me that I didn’t reach out and take advantage of that sometimes I wish I could time travel back in time just to give my younger self a swift kick to the ass. But the bitterest part is knowing that we may never end up back at UD, even though our (mostly my) dream is for the Ogre to get tenure there and for us to never, ever leave that magical place. It’s unlikely, though I have hope.
After this little intro, even though my quick takes were going to be random, I’m now feeling so nostalgic that I’m going to take a little trip down memory lane. So without further ado, here are the seven most
awesome idiotic interesting things I did in college (many of which I do not recommend doing and that my children will never know about).
with a random stranger in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery.
The conversation started innocently enough; said stranger saw my friend and I drinking wine on a grave (I know, I know) and told us that if the guard saw us we’d get a ticket for drinking in the cemetery. So we got up and started wandering away from the grave which had drawn us to Paris (Jim Morrison’s, in case you’re wondering, because we were cool like that). The guy, who was tall, dark, French and freaky-looking, asked us in terrible English if we wanted to see Chopin’s grave. We replied in worse French that we would, so he lead us down a few narrow paths. Actually, it was like a mile of narrow paths, to this grave that was totally off the path and in a part of the cemetery that seemed completely secluded. I got really nervous until I saw that the gravestone actually did have Chopin’s head on it. Then I got absorbed in the other graves nearby, some of which were of noteworthy poets and scientists who I’ve now forgotten. After a while I turned back to my roommate and realized that the conversation had quickly devolved into him explaining to her, half in French and half in English, that the reason he hated all Americans was because he was shot and stabbed in Vietnam, and that it was George Bush who stabbed him. He lifted up his shirt to show us a long scar which he claimed was delivered by the hand of Bush. Then he pulled out a knife to show us how exactly the stabbing had happened. Then we ran.
without a map.
We had planned out our day in Berlin to a T, actually. We were only going to be in Berlin for about eight hours and we wanted to get as much out of it as possible, so before we left Paris we sprang for an hour at an internet cafe to plan our day. We consulted a map of the city and found the train station that would be the closest to the wall. For some reason (actually, I think it was a deep-seated fear of encountering possible remnants of Communism) we planned on seeing the wall from West Berlin, so we decided on a railway stop in the western half of the city and wrote down directions from there.
Unfortunately we were so tired from two days of exploring Paris and two nights of drinking the best wine on God’s green earth (that we could afford), that we slept right through our stop. The conductor kicked us awake (literally) just before they pulled out of the last station in Berlin. So we scrambled off the train and found ourselves freezing, disoriented, on the wrong side of the city and without a map. We looked down the street to our right and saw, about a half-mile off, a small stretch of blank gray wall. We looked at each other and then said, “There’s no way that’s the Berlin Wall.” Then we went left.
After about two hours of wandering the desolate, gray streets of East Berlin we finally found a bridge that crossed to the western side of the city. It was the strangest experience, going over that bridge. The air was noticeably lighter when our feet crossed the border. The people smiled and were less dour. The shops were colored more brightly; it was almost as if the sun came out, even though it was gray and cloudy the whole time.
We finally found the wall after two and a half hours of walking and an hour of eating and hearty drinking to recuperate. We decided to follow it on the East Side, since the West side looked heavily graffitied and illegible. We crossed a bridge again and followed the wall up for miles and miles. It was amazing, and I’m so glad we chose to go up the Eastern side. It was so awesome to see the joy and exuberance in the murals done by a people who were so long oppressed.
After a few hours of walking and picture-taking, we reached a blank stretch of wall and happened to glance the other way, right at the train station where we had initially disembarked.
in our dorm room, with a full-size keg.
Should I be proud of this moment in my college life? Probably not. Am I?
These are intense classes, for those of you unfamiliar with the wonderful world that is UD. These are classes in which the student is immersed in poetry or the novel, expected to keep up with the usual amounts of reading, papers, coursework and tests, in addition to choosing a novel or poet of his or her own to focus on for a big, huge side-project. A side-project that encompasses a very long annotated bibliography, a huge paper, and oral exams.
I got A’s in both classes.
And I did Junior Poet while pregnant with Sienna.
And for those UDers out there, since the question “who was your poet” is pretty much equivalent to asking “what’s your sign” in the normal world, mine was Richard Wilbur.
Be still, my beating heart.
45 minutes from the city, in a snowstorm, overnight, with no money and only a backpack full of Cadbury chocolate from London to sustain three girls.
It was pretty awful, and only the more so because I had to call my parents and ask them if I could use their credit card to pay for our RyanAir tickets back to Rome since we had missed our flight by first missing our train out of Amsterdam, and then getting separated once we were in Brussels.
But we survived, my parents forgave me, I repaid them in grandchildren, and right now I’m eating a Cadbury Flake bar, which strangely has not lost it’s appeal even though I probably ate about fifty of them on that long, cold night.
Met My True Love
the Ogre, who does not look like this but who refuses to let me use his picture.
He does carry a big giant wooden stick with spikes on it, though, which will come in handy when our girls start dating.
We met at the Cap Bar and fell in love over Henry V. Well, I fell in love while he repeatedly banged his head against the wall because I just would not budge in my hatred of Hal.
But that’s a story for another day.
It was the most difficult decision of my life, and the one that required more upheaval, confrontation, soul-searching, inquiry and pain than any other I’ve made. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church has brought me more peace, hope, faith and wonder than I’ve ever known. It’s driven me to become a better person, a better mother, a better wife and daughter.
I could go on and on about the joy I’ve found in Catholicism, but that, too, is a story for another day. Suffice it to say that my conversion would never have happened without UD, it’s rigorous spirit of inquiry, it’s core curriculum, it’s wonderful professors with their amazing families, and it’s honest, caring and devoted students.
The University of Dallas is truly a gem. I miss it the way I miss my family. I get homesick for the uneven and dangerous brick mall, the vine-covered and cigarette-strewn Cap Bar, the small and terribly overcrowded rooms in which I learned so much.
I wish I could go back, because there’s so much more to learn and so many wonderful people from whom to learn it.
(Go see Jen for more quick takes! And good luck in the final days of Christmas preparations!)