My Dad, My Day, Our Alma Mater

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My father was a University of Pennsylvania student long before I was, and yesterday, while sitting along Locust Walk watching the parade of life and learning go by, I picked up the phone to call him. "Hey, Dad," I said, "guess where I am?"

"On the train," he wagered.

"Nope," I told him. "I'm out here, on Locust Walk."

"I'll tell you a story about Locust Walk," my father said, and he went on to describe an apartment building that he had long ago shared with a roommate. "He got the bed," my father said. "I got the couch. It was a good-enough arrangement."

I told him how the old apartment building was gone, replaced by a glamorous cathedral to academia, and how the apple vendor from whom I had, as a sophomore, religiously bought my fat-apple lunch was gone, too, and how nothing, really, was the same as it had been; and yet everything was also deeply familiar. The way the kids sat in the sun to read. The way the music poured down from open windows. The way the stacks on the fourth floor of Van Pelt Library still reeked of the same variety of dust.

"I love it here, Dad," I said, something, I realized, I had never said as a student, when Penn seemed too big and I seemed too small and I could not get my footing. Or maybe I am less afraid of living now than I used to be. Maybe I've grown more capable of joy. I'm just glad that my dad is there, and that I can tell him that, at long last, his alma mater makes me happy.


bermudaonion said...

I love being on a great college campus, too.

Kelly H-Y said...

How neat to have that feeling ... and to be able to share it with your Dad!
I'm off to vote for your blog! :-)

woman who roars said...

He must have loved hearing that! I'm so glad you've found joy in your school.
College campuses are so inspiring in the spring and fall. Between the foliage and quality of light and the huge numbers of young driven people; its amazing.

A Cuban In London said...

I smiled at your father agreeing to get the couch whilst his roommate took the bed. Strange arragement :-).

I have many good memories from my uni days and it's nice to see that someone else can go back to her uni and enjoy it for what it is despite the passing of time. Beautiful post.

Greetings from London.

Beth F said...

I love this: "It was a good-enough arrangement." Somehow it gives me a great feel for your dad.

I'm thinking of dads this week because my very healthy and very active dad turns 85 on Friday.

Ed Goldberg said...

Something I have always loved is sitting outside reading. And especially on a college campus. As an undergrad in the concrete SUNY and Albany, it was by the fountain. At Queens College during my MLS, it was under a tree on the grassy area in the middle of the campus. The combination of reading and people watching is unbeatable.

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