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The Gifts of Fall

 My first fall on campus

Based on everything I know now, I can safely say I did everything wrong during my first semester of college. Well, I didn’t go home every weekend since home was 500 miles away. However, since both of my grandmothers lived within an hour’s drive, I did leave campus more than was good for me. I didn’t do much beyond go to class and study.

Like everyone else in the southern tier of the United States, I moved into my residence hall on a miserably hot August day. There were no volunteers to help us move our belongings, so my Mom and I toted everything from the car to the bank of elevators. Walker Tower, on the campus of the University of Oklahoma, was a 12-story tower built in the 1960s when everyone was building huge towers. I was moving onto the west side of the ninth floor. The Walker Tower lobby was a beehive of people who all seemed to know what they were doing. I certainly did not.

As soon as we had everything in the room, my Mom gave me a hug and turned around for the return 500-mile trip. There were no trips to Container Store, not that it existed yet, or anything appropriate to the era. After she left, I unpacked and waited to meet my roommate. It turns out it’s possible to be too much alike.

I suspect our housing forms were nearly identical. Debbie was just as introverted as I was and both of us were in the same beginning Russian class. Who takes five hours of Russian in their first semester and why were there two of us? Debbie and I spent too much time together in our small room that fall. Football’s kind of a big deal at OU (that’s what’s known as an understatement) and we won a National Championship that year. But I only went to one game. That tells you all you really need to know about my first fall semester.

40 years later

I never could have imagined that forty years later I would join more than thirty people for a reunion celebrating the year we moved on to that ninth floor of Walker Tower. Nor would I have guessed how important that reunion weekend is to me. It turns out I actually had made some friends beyond my roommate during the fall and my second semester improved significantly. While I wasn’t much more active that spring, it was enough. My first fall in college had been difficult. I was homesick and lonely. Yet in that fall, seeds were planted. I met the person who would be my roommate for our sophomore year. We’re still friends. I met the woman who would be maid of honor at my wedding. We still see each other when we can.

The season of fall is a time of slowing down, preparing for winter. It is a time of spectacular beauty, but also a time of ending. The semester of fall, on the other hand, is a time of beginning. Seeds are planted that bring us beauty unimaginable at the time, even if, or maybe especially if it is a time of challenge.

 

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