About this time every year, I get this nagging feeling when I walk onto campus.
The tulips have died off and have been replaced with hardier new summer blooms. The air smells of freshly cut grass. There is no line at Chlapaty Café when I order my caramel-laced, souped-up caffeinated piping hot sugar bomb. There is no line in Gilman. And the squirrels are already fat and bored.
While this would seem like a perfect setting for me, it is hardly that. Every spring — after nonstop busyness as we all work to finish out the spring semester like champs — the to-do lists are checked off, the tests turned in and the papers graded. In that quick sigh of relief, it happens:
THE STUDENTS LEAVE.
There is an empty-nest syndrome that falls over campus. Sure, there are a multitude of projects that still need completed, but the hum of activity, the background noise of students chatting, laughing and shuffling papers has been turned down. It is very much like waiting as your elevator climbs 400 floors, only without the unpredictable music.
Our student worker — who thankfully still comes in for a few hours each week during the summer — is impressively kind and patient during these months as she answers the same daily questions asking if anything interesting or somewhat interesting or empty-nester interesting has happened since the previous day. She’s an Education major, so the way I see it, I’m simply helping her get used to answering the same question over and over and over (times infinity) (plus one, for good measure) again.
Over the course of a few months, the excitement will return as the first waves of students — usually fall athletes, international students and first-year students — begin arriving. The quiet work that has been happening on campus in preparation for their return will be close to being completed and the dry spell of summer will be a distant memory.
Sure enough, the coffee lines will form and the noise levels will start to rise to a more familiar, comfortable level.
I’ve always considered myself a summer person. I love vacations, going to the beach and having an abundance of warm weather. But as the summer days turn into weeks and months, and I begin to adjust to the quiet, I see downtime as a bit overrated and look forward to the days of fall more than ever before.
Letters From Our Readers
Sometime in the last month or so, I was sitting in my little home office staring off into space as usual, trying to think of something to write. I looked down toward the very back corner of the desk, which is obscured by some bookcases above it. There was something kind of shiny back there. Bingo! The famous piece of Grahamite was found!
John Frey ’68