Monday, May 08, 2006

Memories of Davidson - from another blog

Click here for the full page written by someone named Laura. I don't particularly care for her politics on her blog, but she does really have some fond things to say about Davidson.

It's long, but I like reading other people's thoughts about our little town and school, so here it is:

Returning to Davidson after an absence of 10 years was like flipping through the anatomy books that use the clear pages to show the circulatory system, the nervous system, the organs and finally, the page with the skin and you have a whole person. I walked through town, taking pictures and being shocked by the changes, when I would suddenly see one of the clear sheets of nerves or skin peeled back, revealing what was there 10 years ago. I might have changed a lot, the town and the college might have changed a lot, but there were still things that were visible to me from the long ago past. Now Davidson’s quaint little post office where Grandma walked to pick up her mail (I still remember the combination of her long gone box, and when I walked into the KUC here on campus I had quite a little shock, seeing the mailboxes of my childhood in use on a college campus of my adulthood) has been replaced by the glass and chrome type of buildings that are sprouting up everywhere. The campus is still there, and looks as beautiful and beckoning as I remember it.

The interstate exit to Davidson, North Carolina used to be regularly marked with paw prints (giant, red paw prints) left by the mascot for Davidson College, the Wildcat. As a child, I found these exciting to see; the thought that a giant wildcat had traveled the interstate was a compelling one. The town where I grew up seemed to have little in it at the time, except for the private college with the same name as the town: Davidson. Two traffic lights, two gas stations (one of them my grandmother referred to as “the Esso station” until her dying day) and a college. And, of course, there were the paths.

My grandmother lived in a big, two story house about a block away from the college. I spent summers there as a child, and when I grew older – junior high school age or so – my father, my younger sister and I moved in with her. For some time, Grandma took in roomers, always students from the school. One of the boys who stayed there, Andy, had a job as the college mascot. The cat who left the tracks was cooling his paws in Grandma’s house. If I had been a little younger and a little less interested in my own tracks, I would have been beside myself with excitement.

There is only one road that travels through the middle of town. With a stroke of originality, the planners of the town determined it should be called Main Street, and Grandma’s house sits right on it. One block from the campus, two blocks from the old post office (now three, since a new building for all the new mailboxes and accompanying new residents has been built) and only one small block away from Greek Row. While some people might fondly reflect on hearing the sounds of nature outside their bedroom window during their formative years, I recall with equal fondness hearing the Sigma Phi Epsilons having a keg party complete with hot tub in the stark freezing winter. In front of Grandma’s house is a “new” section of sidewalk. It was laid down when I was 18 and a newlywed, home recuperating from appendicitis while my then-husband was away in basic training with the Army. My first foray out after surgery consisted of sitting on the front step leading to the fresh, new sidewalk and writing my initials and the date, October 21st, 1985, into the wet cement. Later that day, my sister and her hooligan friends (Grandma disliked each and all of them, as she felt they were destined for trouble, according to her) left their marks along with mine. When approaching Grandma’s house now, one does so accompanied by the name of a boy who is forever 24 due to an untimely alcohol related death, the initials of the first young man I ever knew to come out of the closet and a woman recently diagnosed with cancer. Grandma may have been right about the trouble after all.

The college is an old one – the buildings are the type of old brick that seem to attract ivy until the ivy seems stronger even than the brick itself. The college is on 450 acres, and that much land spawns many sidewalks and paths. The sidewalks were old when I lived there – cracked, pitted and downright impossible to roller-skate over. But roller-skate I did, with Grandma right behind me. Later, as I grew older, and more mobile, I graduated to a bike, and (seemingly) left Grandma behind. More years passed, and the bike was replaced by a stroller, complete with infant and Grandma with me again. Slower, but still she stayed with me. I walked, skated and biked over the entire college as a kid. I doubt that there was an area left unmarked by my wheels or feet. I hung out in the Commons, used the pay phones when I was grounded from my home phone, and ran on the cross country trails. This was before the advent of the Walkman, so I listened to my thoughts, rather than music.

The college is bordered by enormous trees and in the fall my friends and I would leave our school bus early so we could walk the remainder of the way home and ruin the neat piles of leaves by the roadside that covered the sidewalks. My friends might have gotten some excitement from the desecration of the work of others, but I enjoyed the whispery sound of the leaves scattering in front and around me. The colors of the leaves were incredible, too, so bright and brilliant that every tree I see showing its colors in the fall makes me think of those trees in Davidson, 20 years ago. Showering leaves down upon us juvenile delinquents running up the sidewalk was not the only job for the trees; when they were green and full of springtime, they were perfect for climbing and contemplating my obligatory teen angst.

The paths of the college campus – sidewalks, dirt, or through the particularly climbable branches of a tree – circuitously carried me through my failed high school career, into a marriage, birth of a child and on through my growth into who I am becoming each day. As a child, spending so much time on a beautiful college campus, I never doubted I would attend a university and excel. It went without saying. Suddenly, I was 16, in love with a very bad guy, and my college hopes indeed went without saying, they said not a word to me as I left them behind in favor of his desires and needs, then the needs of my child. An early marriage, dropping out of high school and within a few years, a child, and the visions I had of myself as a dorm dwelling college student disappeared. While it could be argued that living in a dorm is not a dream for anyone, but truly a nightmare in horror (where else would one need to wear shoes in the shower?) it signified something more to me: independence and the capability to care for myself without the interference or assistance of another. Or, to put it another way: college is learning to do. Do what? Anything. I had envisioned myself in the high rooms of a dorm, studying, reading all the books in the library, walking all over the campus as I had as a child, finally belonging in the environment that I had spent years living around, but not in.

Davidson College was a great place to grow up.


She said...

Hi there! Thanks for the link! I really do love Davidson, and loved spending my growing up time there. I had contacted one of the alumni magazines to see if they were interested in publishing this or anything. Do you know of anyone who might be interested? I'm in graduate school in Texas now, and am always looking for publishing opportunities!

Thanks again!


Dissident Daughter said...

It's always great to find another Davidson alum. I just graduated in 2005, and now I'm at grad school up at Yale. I know it's only been a year, but I still miss that place like crazy. There's just no other community quite like it.