To begin the story at the beginning, read "Part 1: Post 1: Beginning Again," published in January, 2013. To consult a description of the campus, read "Part 1: Post 14: The Greening of Campus," published in March, 2013.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Part 8: Post 12: Call My Name

Today has been an odd mix of coming and going. Almost everyone is back on campus now, and people were busy unpacking all day. But people were busy packing, too. Forty-two people are graduating in less than a week, and most of them have started packing up their things. I hadn't thought about it before, but even though they're obviously staying until Brigid, their stuff has to be moved out by the time the new students come in because we have very few empty rooms.

Where do they go? Where do they spend their last night or two on campus? I'm not actually sure. Why are they packing up now? Some of them are just trying to get it out of the way, I'm sure, but they're rumored to be going away on some kind of final trip together, and I'm sure that has something to do with it.

It's strange to think of these people being gone. Arther, Joe, Trish, and Otter are friends of mine, and I'll miss their company, but it's not like they're dying, so it's not really a big deal. But some of these people, even some people from my own dorm, I barely know them. Song, Wren, Arion...who are these people? I've never really found out. I'm having the most irrational urge to hurry up and become close friends with them right away before they leave...that's obviously not happening, though.

I've been talking to a lot of the graduating students, though, asking them questions, and two things jump out at me. First, listening to some of them talk about how long they've been here and what they've do I put this? It's like aging trees. You can go around measuring trees and estimating their ages, and discover, for example, that the sugar maples along the main drive and the white oaks along the back drive are all about the same age--about a hundred years. That means they all started growing at the same time, and I can think about what that time must have been like. In the same way, I keep hearing people say, over and over, that they've been here three years. That means they were all yearlings together. I never thought of it this way before--that all these people have known each other the whole time.

The other thing is that hardly any of these people are planning to come back and do the mastery program. Arther is, but I think maybe only five or six other people are.That sounds about right, given that there are only ten mastery candidates on campus right now, compared to nearly a hundred novices, but still, I can't really imagine anyone just being satisfied with the undergraduate degree here. That's weird--I hadn't really noticed, but I guess sometime over the past year I decided to stay here as long as I can and go as far with it as I can.

I want to be a master.

Anyway, Nora is back on campus now for the year. She's managed to convince her mother to let her stay through the weekend most weeks. I asked her how she did it, expecting to hear something about how responsible she is now, and how she's nearly 18, both of which are true.

"I threatened to get back together with my old boyfriend," she told me, blithely.


"Well, I mean, she never used to like my friends. She thought they would get me into trouble. I don't know, maybe she's right, but they were my friends. And she especially hated my boyfriends. They were all too old and too...well, sexy, I guess, for her. I'm still friends with a lot of those people, but I hardly see them anymore...I just asked her, who does she want me hanging out with on the weekends? Those people or you guys? And she likes you guys."

I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Kayla and Aidan are back, too. Aidan is getting big. He's walking everywhere, and according to Kayla he can talk now, or at least say a few words, but he wouldn't say any of them around me. I'm not sure he remembers who I am. He does seem to like me, whoever he thinks I am, though. The whole time Kayla and I were talking last night he kept picking up various nick-knacks from around the Great Hall and bringing them to me. I was supposed to name them for him, apparently, but he wouldn't say the names after me. He only grunted in acknowledgement.

Candlestick, pomander, worry doll family, amethyst, piece of pop corn, clump of cat hair, a lemon, dried poppy pod, rabbit's foot, owl feather, wet sock....

"Oh, no, honey, that's not yours, go put that back. Put back the sock!" Kayla insisted, and Aidan looked at her uncertainly for a moment. Then he put the sock back in the boot where he had found it. I have no idea whose sock that was. Aidan might not be that great at talking, but he clearly understands what Kayla says to him.

"You really listen to your mommy, don't you?" I told him when he returned. At the word "mommy" he seemed surprised and looked around the room. Kayla picked him up.

"No, she's not here. She's upstairs, remember? But you do listen to Mommy when she tells you things, don't you? You are very attentive."

I must have looked confused because Kayla smiled at me.

"I'm not 'Mommy,'" she explained. "I'm Aunt Kayla, though he's starting to call me Anka and I think we're going to go with that. Mommy is 'Mommy.'" And she blushed for a moment. "I mean, Mom is 'Mommy.' Anyway, it's not a secret that he's my son, but Allen told me I really need to think about who I disclose to--because of my age? And what it means about my history? He says it's a privacy thing for me. And I can't be choosy about who I disclose to if Aidan's calling me 'Mommy.' When he get's old enough to know the difference he'll just be calling his mother 'Anka.'"

I guess that makes sense, but I have mixed feelings about it, too.

Today, just after lunch, my therapy group met for the last time. We're all meeting either today or tomorrow, so Allen can meet with us. We haven't seen him since Yule, he's been in Florida or something, and he has the tan to prove it. He didn't talk about his vacation, and we didn't ask, but he seems relaxed, energized, happy. I'm not surprised, if he swam every day. I remember how long he spent in the water on the island.

We talked about the year, what our goals had been, how we had changed, how we had seen each other change, whether any of our goals had changed along the way. And we kind of said goodbye to each other.

Of course, most of us can keep spending as much time together as we want, if we want. Therapy group is over--or, it is more most of us, because the groups have only a limited number of spaces and new students get first priority--but we're all still going to be here. For Arther, it's different. He isn't.

He's in my therapy group, and not only is his time here ending, but he can't come back and visit right away because he wants to go on to the mastery program, so he has to be out of contact for a year. Allen had him speak last, and I think that was a good idea because something about his talking was qualitatively different from what everybody else said.

"I wish I had more time," he said, finally.

At the end of the meeting, Allen lead us through one more group bonding exercise. He had us stand in a circle and link hands. He joined the circle, but the dropped the hand of Joe, the person next to him so we made a line, him on one end, Joe on the other. Joe is graduating, too, but he's been here two years and I think it's easier for him to go. But maybe still not easy. We made a curved line, Allen on one end and Joe on the other, and Allen had us wrap around Joel the way you might wrap yarn around itself to make a ball. Soon we were all wrapped into a giant spiral hug with Joe at the center.

"When you feel your neighbor squeeze your hand, squeeze the hand of your other neighbor," Allen directed. "Joe, let us know when you get it."

I think we all felt very warm and fuzzy at that point. I felt the squeeze after a few seconds--Allen must have started it--and passed it on. I was on the outside loop, so it felt more like I was hugging that getting hugged. I'm not a particularly huggy person, but I liked that one. I could smell the wool of the other people's uniforms so close to me, and their bodies felt warm and I waited for Joe to say he'd finally gotten the squeeze.

He never said that he did. Eventually, we figured out that the message and gotten lost somewhere along the line, so we let go and had a chuckle about it and went in with our day, but that's not what I remember. What I remember is standing in that spiral hug, not talking, for what seemed like hours but must really have been two or three minutes, just standing there, listening to the gentle sound of an old man crying.

[Next Post: Friday, January 31st: Eighth Interlude]

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