I spoke at Boston College this week to the Global Health class. Seventy-five bright faces with eagerness to know the world. It’s a high for me.
I did my undergraduate education at BC and the campus is not that big. Most of my classes were held in the nursing school but I had a few core courses in the other buildings. Stokes Hall was where I was to speak and I had no recollection of it. I wracked my brain trying to remember where it was, and ended up having to look at the campus map to find it.
I had two hours to kill, so walked the campus looking for memories. I loved my four years there, though, a fair amount of those years were tortured with the angst of burgeoning adulthood, breaking away from a controlling and abusive father, and the recurring heartbreak of a boyfriend who wouldn’t leave his other girlfriend for me. (So I guess he wasn’t really my boyfriend.) The memory of those struggles did not dampen the joy I felt walking around that beautiful campus last Tuesday. I went over to St Mary’s Chapel, where I used to go to Mass at noon on weekdays. It is a sweet sacred place, with gorgeous stained glass and no sign announcing it’s presence. I wondered if it was still open. I tried the door and it bade me enter into peace and calm. I sighed as if I were enveloped by loving arms. I sat in the second pew for awhile and gave thanks for this holy refuge that saved me.
I walked by the Newman Center where I’d go on Sunday evenings. A bunch of us would sit in a circle on the floor and really cool young Jesuit in jeans and a black turtleneck would celebrate Mass. That was a lot of Masses to go to! Not that any of this was required. We did have to do some credits of philosophy and theology but no one was required to go to Mass. I wonder why I went so often? Coming from such a strict upbringing I think I looked for a structure to replace the one I was leaving. It seemed so safe and accepting and affirming.
I crossed the grass to Bapst Library. I wondered if it was still a library and if anyone in college read books anymore (hoping for obvious reasons that they did). I walked up the stairs to the main room, unchanged since my days there, aside from students on laptops at the heavy long tables. Still present was the soft sound of pages turning. If I added up all the hours I spent in there reading it would amount to months. I looked around at the spectacular stained glass windows and wondered if I appreciated the beauty of the place during those hours.
The lawn facing the library was where we had our pinning ceremony the day before graduation. I was 21, engaged to a new love, happy and bright, and the world contained all that was good. What promise exists in this setting! I wondered if they would hire me to teach without a PhD? I never wanted to leave.
I found my way back to Stokes Hall. There was a cafe near the entryway. I thought this has certainly been renovated; there were no cafes back in my day. It was irritating me that I had no recollection of this place. I told the professor that I didn’t remember this building at all. She said, “It’s brand new. They built it to look old to fit in with the other buildings.”
Oh sweet affirmation.