Fern and I drove to Carleton today to get new sweatshirts, eat Hogan Brothers' Sandwiches and breathe the Malt-o-Meal laden Northfield air. According to the radio, this is the last weekend for peak fall color viewing, although, for me, there's no point in viewing bright orange, yellow, and red leaves unless they are splashed across a clear, blue sky, and clear, blue skies have been in very short supply this gloomy October.
It wasn't until we arrived on campus and saw all of the prospective students milling about with their parents that I remembered that MEA weekend 17 years ago was the very weekend I decided to attend Carleton. I remembered walking across campus with my mother who spent that year riding a Sine curve of my annoyance with her and so treated me with gentle standoffishness that weekend in order not to jinx my Carleton weekend. We were near what later became my favorite spreading elm tree on campus when some current students saw a crowd of prospies walking across campus and chose to fuck with us by announcing loudly that they were on the way to the library to write their 30-page papers due the next morning. I liked that these existing students noticed us and created some humor for us. It was very different from Northwestern, where, if anyone noticed that I was walking across campus with 20 other high school students, he didn't find it worthy of remark. I remember turning to my mother to see if she got the joke and finding her at close to -1 on the annoying scale, which was how I knew that the Carleton campus was already having an effect on my mood.
It still does. A quick walk across the bald spot, staring at the little kids who currently pose as Carleton students is almost sure to bring a smile to my face. It was Friday today, so the student mailboxes overflowed with Friday Flowers and my heart joined them. Of course, we only get to visit now and bemoan our slacker senior year, when we had the chance to take such fascinating classes and we blew it by only taking the bare minimum load. We only get to see the outside of the windows of our old rooms in Nourse, and we can't head on over to Goodhue for a round of hall 'bee before dinner.
Still, we left refreshed with that feeling that we always get, that we were lucky for those four years, happier than we knew, surrounded for the only time in our lives by people at least as smart as we were. It's good to see that it still exists, even though we know that it's not really there for us anymore.