Going backwards in time is so easy when you return to a place that shaped you. The tree-lined quad is still there, your old dorms, the Gizmo with its sharp, greasy smell, the scent of popcorn wafting from the students’ windows, and the professors who still engage you in deep conversation at the drop of a hat. And then there was Siegel-Schwall, Corky’s harmonica swirling out a tune to Schwall’s rhythmic beat and Sam on the drums singing backup: such nights, as in the past, made me close my eyes and imagine the notes spiraling out through the Cosmos as I shimmied like the girl I used to be.
But then, some things do change. I was there to engage in the Alumni-Faculty Book Signing at a table in the same room with some of those professors and other alums. It was a blast.
And then the delights kept coming. I talked to current students, like the girl who said she knew Knox was for her when on her prospective tour she exited a lecture to find a group of the same students she’d just heard in serious discussion, lying on the grass blowing through reeds of grass.
And the little girls who told me about their experience in “College for Kids.”
And the alum who farms about thirty miles away from where she got her degree and reads the winter nights away. How wonderful to know that one of the books that will keep her company this winter is Eve’s Garden!
Then I was floored by the sudden appearance of our goddaughter, Sarah (in the Knox shirt; yep, she went to college there, too) and almost her entire family! They had driven from Chicago just to surprise me.
I was as surprised the night before to find that the mother of the artist whose lecture I’d come to hear was none other than the woman who introduced me to feminism, my classmate, Lise Levy, show here with her husband, Mark Van Raden. We giggled about “liberating” half the bathrooms on the first floor of the new Math and Science Center, all those years ago, when the college’s builders somehow forgot that women can be mathematicians and scientists, too. We sneaked in late at night and hung “women” signs on half the bathroom doors. Yes, deans, I admit it! Lise seemed surprised that she had started me on the tear that led to me being President of Illinois NOW and Chair of the NOW PAC at one time. Or the mother of a feminist son, for that matter. All these years, I’ve wanted to thank her for starting that first consciousness-raising group. It helped me get my life in perspective.
A very full day, indeed! Thank you, Old Veritas!