years gone by

I just finished taking a walk with my son. We met for lunch and ended up walking around campus on this rainy Wednesday, looking at how our alma mater has changed.

As we walked up the Encampment Mall, I spoke of the rows of single-wide trailers that occupied that spot, not of the original settlers, but of the freshmen who dared call it student housing, part of it for single students, the other for marrieds.

We made our way to the new construction of student housing going in on the northeast side that will eventually replace Nisson Towers and Shenandoah and walked our way around counterclockwise past the science building where we talked about how I was the first student of our then new geology teacher way back when and Chris was his last.

At the Performing Arts Center I pointed out the classroom where I met Mindy, the love of my life, and then through the Eccles’ Fine Arts Center where we found an exhibit of a piece of the original stage floor hanging in a display case. There’s a clear plastic panel attached to it that has a list of all the plays performed there upon, including The Price in 1980, Da in 1983, and Our Town in 1985 in which I played roles, and All My Sons in 2000 where Chris played a big part. A few paces further down on the opposite wall are framed images performed in the Eccles’ new spaces including Family that I directed in 2004.

We stepped into the drizzle outside, south of the Eccles, to the Graff Performing Arts building. It was locked, but we could see through the windows of its annex where the door to my office used to be, a place where Chris hung out and edited video while I rehearsed a readers’ theater in FA 124 next door. He was six then. It was also in FA 124 where Chris gave a speech to my public speaking students on tectonic plates. He was five then.

We descended to the lower campus and walked by the fountain where I danced with his mother on our honeymoon night and then to the causeway between the Holland and the Gardner Center where he surprised me last May during Commencement, walking to get his diploma, the one that I would have the honor to hand to him.

It was there that we ran into a friend of mine. I had both Ward and his son Mitch as students during my tenure here. Mitch is the Marine I wrote about in Youngsters, and there we were, Chris and me talking with Ward about public service in the rain.

Tomorrow Chris is going to get back into his unit and drive to Kingman to continue his field training and I’ll be in my office prepping for my fifty-first semester with an added layer of nostalgia and a precarious appreciation for the years gone by.

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