Amidst a cluster of sunbaked, red brick buildings, new shoots of lime green ivy are emerging. Unremarkable and common, of the English Hedera helix variety, it is reaching out beneath a Texas live oak tree on the campus of Trinity University. As I walk up the Laurie Auditorium steps, I stop to touch it and wonder at the cool, supple color against the backdrop of crinkling, older leaves. The students walking the campus today in their Greek lettered t-shirts and flip flops look the same as we did thirty years ago. Casual, confidence exudes from their long boards as they cruise to the library. Following them into the new Center for Sciences and Innovation, it occurs to me that I am now the old ivy, my edges are fraying and the veins are visible.
During my college reunion, we ate too many bean and cheese tacos, talked about gentrified development at the Pearl Brewery and how happy we are to still be alive. My friends had me laughing to the point of almost throwing up as we steered the “Tally-ho Tahoe” rental car in between the rusty low-riders and stray dogs that are perennially San Antonio. I thought about my own children, strolling their Indiana college campuses and prayed that they would have this to come back to in thirty years: a group of friends who know one another fully and can’t wait to share the next inane antic memory while also reflecting on how blessed we’ve been in growing up, an eighty year old professor who in a single speech can still inspire us to create, to love and to give the little we have to improve the world, a city and community culture bursting with vivid color and diversity and at the end of it all, the desire to go home and do more.
There is an intangible unity in sharing how blessed we are. Thanks to Gena F. for serendipitously leaving her collection of alumni reflections in the Tahoe, I was able to read through the thoughts of my classmates on the plane. The common theme throughout was gratitude. Many said they wouldn’t change anything about their time at Trinity. They now recognize how much those four years gave them. A few said they wish they would have studied more and drank less, or stopped to take it in – to slow down, take notice and revel in the beauty of a college education. There are irreplaceable components of going to college that an on-line education can’t deliver. No matter how much we parents grumble about paying tuition, the long term benefit of rich, inspiring community for a lifetime is priceless.
So to my own lime green ivy college students, savor the gift you are receiving today. Stop on your campus and look at those fall leaves against the blue sky, hug your friends and tell them how much you love them, spend time with your professors and thank them when you leave class, divert from your to-do list and make a list of what you are grateful for in living this day of college learning. In your pliant freshness, remember the words of Trinity poet Naomi Shihab Nye – “Walk around feeling like a leaf. Know you could tumble any second. Then decide what to do with your time.”
p.s. Gena – I’ll mail the alumni collection back to you! Thanks!